NP0008 The Great Attachment Debate

This blog focuses on discussion regarding the course NP0008 The Great Attachment Debate.

NP0008, Attachment, Session 5, Sue Johnson


How is Attachment Theory relevant to effectively couples therapy? Learn with Sue Johnson how understanding and working with attachment relationships will help therapists deepen their emotional presence and work with clients’ emotional reactivity in session. Johnson, one of the originators of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, will explore the principles of this empirically validated treatment and how to apply Attachment Theory in therapy.

After this session, please take a few minutes to engage in the Comment Board and let us know what you think about using this method with couples and whether you think Attachment Theory is applicable in couples therapy. What was new or most striking about this presentation? What questions did this bring up for you?  We invite you to include your name and hometown along with your comment. If you ever have any technical questions, contact support@psychotherapynetworker.org.

09.05.2011   Posted In: NP0008 The Great Attachment Debate   By Psychotherapy Networker
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  • Not available avatar Clyde Tigner 09.07.2011 13:32
    Thank you, Sue and Rich, for sharing this with us!!! I think of it is so important to be able to overcome those attachment ruptures. I see these as causing most of my clients a lot of distress. I so agree with everything you have presented.
  • Not available avatar Lynn 09.10.2011 16:00
    Thank you for your wonderful insights and clear examples of how attachment concerns affect couples and individuals. Will you be writing or speaking more on working with individuals who are not currently in a relationship or they are in a relationship with a person who is not nurturing/possibly abusive and they are looking for strength to move on. It seems quite difficult to work on attachment longings when a person is not in a good marriage and they are also not part of a caring family system. Do you help the person understand/feel secure attachment through the therapeutic relationship and possibly through close friendships they may have? As a new therapist, I have noticed that support systems are probably the number one key to overall health. Thank you for your time and commitment to helping other therapists. Lynn
  • Not available avatar Ronit Gross, LCSW 09.13.2011 21:49
    Sue, thank you so much for your talk- it inspired me to purchase Hold Me Tight and Becoming an Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist and I look forward to reading them when they arrive. I am definitely getting a better understanding of the differences between the attachment and differentiation focus and I find myself a deep believer in human beings as social animals and the need for the bonding experiences between people. My understanding from your talk is that attachment does advocate for that personal, individual wholeness but believes that people come to this wholeness through relatedness. It makes me wonder if some of the lure of differentiation is based in the fear of that wholeness reliant on something outside of ourselves which we cannot always control and I can understand that fear. My understanding is that differentiation states that wholeness starts with you and then the postive relationships will come- what a fascinating chicken or egg discussion! I am so moved however, by the still face experiment and what it means around the built in wiring for mirroring and understanding from key safety figures. I especially liked the part of the talk around a true apology and how we need to see someone else hurt by the idea they have hurt us in order to repair trust and risk again- so powerful! So my question is, in what situations do you find EFT unsuccessful and with which kind of clients? What about abusive relationships? How can EFT be used when a couple comes in with the underlying (and possibly unconscious) goal of ending the relationship instead of repairing it? Thank you again for a great discussion.
  • Not available avatar Larry Drell, MD 09.16.2011 09:46
    Thank you for an incredible discussion. I am a psychiatrist who has focused on psychotherapy and especially the development of the real loving relationship between patient and therapist as essential for maximum therapy and opportunity for growth.

    You expressed beautifully the science and logic of what has seemed to work with patients. I thought the importance of how the patient experiences the therapist when the patient is feeling pain was so valuable. Often I do not fully understand what to do. Because i realize i will sometimes use humor and sometimes say nothing or sometimes touch the patient when i am with someone who is describing a terrible situation. But appreciative comments that they have felt secure, known and valued by me has reinforced my unresearched approach.

    I have made mistakes but i think what you emphasized was that the felt knowledge that the therapist or partner in couple therapy is there for you even if they step on your toes is what is essential in building trust.

    Your description of forgiveness and the "felt" apology when the person knows that their partner actually feels the pain of their pain and that that is not because of the words... maybe a touch maybe a particular expression is so essential.

    This lecture has reminded me of some additional work i could do with a patient i no longer see but feel i could do additional work with to help improve a very complicated painful situation that had occurred.

    Thank you. I look forward to learning more

    Larry Drell, MD
    Washington, Dc
  • Not available avatar carol Mc dermott 09.16.2011 18:16
    Dear Sue,

    Bravo for your fine work and clear presentation. Your words are validating for the importance of trust and forgiveness. The examples you gave in the webinar, including using the lovely video, helped cement the usefulness of attatchment theory.
    When I have a emotional disturbance with my husband, who will withdraw, I have learned to ask him "what do we need to do to get back to a good place?"
    I find many good examples in the webinar to enhance the work I sometimes am called to do with couples in crisis.
    Thank you..it's not often I hear the word 'love' used in our work.

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