NP0016 The Great Attachment Debate

This blog focuses on discussion regarding the course NP0016 The Great Attachment Debate.

NP0016, Attachment, Session 1, Alan Sroufe

Is Attachment Theory important to clinical practice today? Over the next few weeks, the Great Attachment Debate will present a variety of viewpoints from leading experts on the scientific foundations of Attachment Theory to answer this relevant question about its implications.

In this first session, you’ll learn the fundamentals of Attachment Theory—John Bowlby’s influence, the connection between attachment style and psychopathology, and why Attachment Theory is important to clinical practice—with leading researcher Alan Sroufe.

After each session, please take a few minutes to engage in the Comment Board, an important part of our learning experience and to create a community of learning between participants. Please feel free to comment about what you’ve learned in the session, to ask any questions you may have of the presenter or your peers, or to share any relevant experiences. We invite you to include your name and hometown along with your comment. If you ever have any technical questions, contact support@psychotherapynetworker.org.
03.20.2012   Posted In: NP0016 The Great Attachment Debate   By Psychotherapy Networker
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  • Not available avatar Dominick Robertson 03.20.2012 12:28
    I wonder if in future sessions, the presenters will be allowed to present, rather than being interviewed? I think that would have value. Presenters have been selected for their expertise, so we should allow them to determine the best way to communicate that expertise
  • 0 avatar Chris Parker 03.20.2012 13:08
    Dr, you mentioned that no other study compares with this longitudinal study that you have done. I wonder how you could contrast and compare to the Resiliency studies done in Hawaii.
  • Not available avatar Carol C 03.20.2012 13:11
    This discussion was illuminating in teasing out the finer points and differentiation of Bowlby's theory. It helped me refine my understanding. Thank you.
  • Not available avatar Tom Lavin 03.20.2012 13:12
    Two things stand out for me:
    1) Alan's elucidation that it's not how much the baby cries on separation but rather how they are able to utilize the caregiver upon reunion that is the barometer of attachment;
    2) It made me recall the conflicts my wife and I had when our daughters were infants about whether or not to let them cry at night (the Ferber method). Our pediatrician was recommending at the time that they needed to cry to learn that they could calm themselves. I remember the agony of that for me (my mirror neurons going bonkers). What does attachment theory have to say about that.
    Thanks Alan.
  • Not available avatar Kathy Hegberg 03.20.2012 13:12
    If i heard right, what is hopeful to me is that if mothers of infants born into traumatic/chaotic situations have a support system, then the relationship with the infant is more likely to include a higher quality of care, leading to a more secure attachment. Also hopeful is the fact that attachment is a lifelong process, not just defined by what happens at birth. In the trenches, this is huge.
  • -0.1 avatar Beryl Ann Cowan 03.20.2012 13:17
    I would like to know more about the role of culture from both a theoretical and practical point of view. Many cultures have very different ideas about how infants should be attended and responded to. How would Bowlby incorporate culture into the model in real terms.
    Also, I think that it would be helpful to weave the theoretical discussion into an applied model. I would like to have more discussion about tying theory to clinical work, with examples of work with children, teen and adults.
  • Not available avatar Raquel Kislinger 03.20.2012 13:25
    The reminder that attachment is not an intensity trait, like dependency, but a trait of the relationship, really stood out for me. Believing, as I do, that change is always possible, it was very meaningful to have the speaker emphasize that one's early experience is neither deterministic nor linear.
  • Not available avatar Cindy 03.20.2012 14:36
    Please comment on the challenges, specifically, related to treatment foster care regarding children taken out of the homes during preschool or early childhood, ages 5-8, whose early experiences were conflicted by abuse, neglect and separation from kin. Respectfully, when they are placed in treatment foster care, they often come to realize that for them the only permanent thing is change, and separation. Subsequently, for example, they succumb to a myriad of changing environments -- foster homes, neighborhoods, parenting styles, schools, social workers, agencies, therapists, to name a few. How can they form secure attachments under this kind of pressure? I wonder if you would care to comment on these challenges. I would appreciate your comments and any reference materials ... Very interested. Thank you.
  • 0.1 avatar ANITA FRANKEL MA, MFT 03.20.2012 16:28
    Richard, I love the magazine,and am grateful for this series, and another which have also taken. However, I have a some difficulty with the manner in which you conduct the interview. I would seem that you might get some consultation on keeping your interventions short, and to the point. At times it feels like you are rambling, looking for the question, rather than posing it. Perhaps you are too overwhelmed by the number of tasks you do as editor and conference organizer and webinar peoducer to prepare better, but I think it would be such a boon to your readers/viewers.
    • Not available avatar Elena Lesser Bruun 03.29.2012 15:38
      I really disagree with your assessment of how Rich came across...you found him rambling, I found him to be a thoughtful contributor to the dialogue.
  • 0 avatar Trevor Crow LMFT 03.21.2012 12:38
    Thank you for this wonderful and timely series. With emerging knowledge that our brains are relational, plastic and constantly adapting, it adds hope and excitement to the future of our field.
  • 0 avatar Kathy Chase 03.21.2012 23:05
    I appreciate the succinct manner in which the presentation was offered to us. As Alan gave clear explanations of the emphasis of Bowlby's theory regarding the role of past development not being deterministic but foundational, it gives great reminders as to holding history carefully as we work with clients; and continually being reminded and aware of the power of the relationship we engage with them. I wonder more about the impact of intense trauma on the client in relation to the role of therapeutic relationship for the client.
  • Not available avatar Garry Chrusch MSW 03.23.2012 12:30
    Thank you for such an informative presentation on Attachment Theory. The reference re the importance of Relationships in Life resonated with me.
  • Not available avatar Mary Mitchell 03.23.2012 12:45
    I was so struck by the differentiation concerning social mammals and the comment concerning in response to fear we run to a person not a hole. This led to questions for me of the impact of trauma and the mechanism of withdrawal. Is the biological arousal so overwhleming that emotional regulation patterns are no longer effective; or that the representations concerning security are so assaulted that patterns of seeking safety are altered or no longer trusted; or is this part of a developmental pattern that is exacerbated by the trauma event? I would like to know more about how the theory addresses trauma response.
  • Not available avatar Fiona Glover 03.23.2012 23:43
    As a student counsellor I really appreciated this introduction to Attachment Theory. Several points that I have learned: Relationship across the lifespan is important; that change is possible even for people with bad early experiences; and the value of a good therapist who is willing to take the time to create a safe relationship so that the client can explore their positive and negative experiences in their life history and use the positive to promote change around those experiences that were not so positive. I look forward to the next sessions.
  • Not available avatar Phillip 03.24.2012 02:14
    having been in the field for a number of years I can very much see the import of what has been shared. What stands out to me is not just the attachment behaviour of the infant but the quality of responsiveness in the parent/care giver. If consistent, active and accurate in responsiveness, the child can feel valuable enough to explore and grow. This phenomenon can be transfered to the therapy situation and it is a challenge to the way we are present and aware of the various nuances of each client.
  • Not available avatar Joanna 03.24.2012 11:13
    I disagree with the above comment that it might be a better format to have these experts simply lecture rather than be interviewed by Rich. I find Rich's "attunement", questions and request for clarifications very helpful. Thank you to both participants for helping me think through this attachment stuff yet another time.
    • Not available avatar Irene Savarese 03.27.2012 10:18
      Thank you Joanna. I agree wholeheartedly that Rich is doing a great job in asking clarifying questions.
  • Not available avatar Annette Kussin 03.24.2012 13:47
    As an Attachment Focused Therapist and Trainer I appreciated Alan'S Sroufe information on the Minnesota Longitudinal Study showing attachment to be a significant predictor of adaptation and resiliency in later life. I have always appreciated the term earned security and it was good to here from Alan that insecurely attached people can change through later positive relationships. Annette
  • Not available avatar James Reling 03.25.2012 00:52
    I enjoyed how concise Dr. Sroufe's discussion, and explanation of Attachment Theory was. It gave me a much more clear perspective on what Attachment Theory is, and is not. I ordered the Bowlby book he recommended, and look forward to ordering Sroufe's book about the Minnesota Longitudinal Study soon. Thanks!!
    James Reling
  • Not available avatar patricia macdonald 03.25.2012 09:54
    What I found most helpful was Dr. Sroufe's point on the quality of attunement and the appropriateness of the caregivers response. In the closing stages of my psychotherapy training, I have become increasingly sensitive to my own needs to intervene and how hard it is for me to work from the stance of 'client led', just as the sensitive caregiver is child-led.
  • Not available avatar Kirsten Buhr 03.25.2012 16:34
    Really appreciated the fine tuning on how it's the quality of the reunion that matters, rather than the quality of crying, and on the fact that the infant is formed/has the orientation to "make use of" the caregiver.
  • Not available avatar Chantal Wiebe 03.26.2012 21:26
    It always remains so powerful to me that attachment promotes dependence, which is often despised by our current culture because we want our children to self-soothe, be self-disciplined, and self-motivated. What we so often fail to recognize is that if we encourage our children to rely on us, to rest in our care for them, they develop into the independent contributors we wanted all along. Thanks Alan for sharing this!
  • Not available avatar Susan 03.26.2012 23:27
    That a therapist has a part in creating safety where early experience may have left a void is the best take-away for me from this presentation. To participate in another person's reparation of negative experience is a phenomenal privilege. Dr. Sroufe, I worked for you in the 70's as part of the work study program at the U of M. Not in a million years did I think I'd "run into you" again.
  • Not available avatar Sunny 03.27.2012 08:22
    Thank you Allen for sharing the product of that long wonderful endeavor! If I would tell someone, a new mom (or to be), for example, about "secure attachment" you frequently mentioned during the talk, how would I tell her? I am not talking about an operational definition per say but it is in a way I guess...thank you!
  • Not available avatar Elena Lesser Bruun 03.29.2012 15:35
    Even as a very experienced (old-er)family therapist, I was fascinated by this first in the series. Gave me a chance to fill in gaps in my understanding of attachment theory and affirm how much clinical sense the theory makes. Thank you to both Alan and Rich for a lucid on the mark dialogue.
  • 0 avatar najwa aref 03.31.2012 14:32
    Thank you very much it was very useful for me , new subject and very interesting . I am going to start to read more about it
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