NP0016 The Great Attachment Debate

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

NP0016, Attachment, Session 4, David Schnarch


Are there any downsides to basing clinical treatment on Attachment Theory? In this session, discover why David Schnarch, a leading advocate of differentiation in the therapy process, believes that Attachment Theory keeps clients functioning as needy children. Schnarch will discuss how to use confrontation as an effective therapeutic approach.

After this session, please take a few minutes to engage in the Comment Board and let us know what you think about using this strategy with clients. What was most relevant 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.

04.10.2012   Posted In: NP0016 The Great Attachment Debate   By Psychotherapy Networker
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  • 0 avatar Carol Bettridge 04.10.2012 13:36
    Thank you for your presentation, Dr. Schnarch. I have read Sexual Crucible and respect your work although I would say I primarily utilize a different approach with the couples I work with. I was curious about a point you made in the interview. You mentioned that attachment doesn't deal with the child who has a caregiver that displays hateful and disgusting behavior yet I would imagine that type of parenting would produce an insecurely attached child; perhaps disorganized. Would that not translate to a belief or a realization that sometimes we do intend harm to others rather than it always being about fear which can be a relevant part of an attachment based therapy? Also, I'm wondering if attachment therapy and differentiation therapy may be compatible rather than antithetical? It would seem that "self soothing" would be an important part of attachment work that allows for being self-aware while remaining attached. Christine Bettridge, LPC
  • 0 avatar elena lesser bruun 04.10.2012 16:22
    I don't see differentiation as antithetical to attachment therapy. Don't both stances agree that we are get attached in early childhood and that the particular kind of attachment is either good, less good or maybe even "disgusting?" I also think we might agree that most/all parents do the best they can, as long as it is understood that some parents' best is not good enough for their children. In cases where parenting was really bad, I somehow doubt clients could handle the tough love Schnarch provides unless or until clients have a sense of what a secure attachment feels like. I greatly admire Schnarch's emphasis on therapist integrity and learn a lot from hearing him speak, but I don't think I'd sign up for therapy...a little too authoritarian for me.
  • 0 avatar Christine Kiss 04.15.2012 12:23
    Initially I had a difficult time buying into Dr. Schnarch's point of view, as I do believe that most parents do the best they can. As a parent who has made a lot of mistakes, I didn't make those mistakes with the intent of inflicting emotional wounds on my child. The view of human nature that we are by definition all manipulative, self-serving, and cruel, destructive beings is one that I do not agree with. If I believed that, I wouldn't be able to provide therapy to people. For me, I need to believe that people are basically good and want to do good in the world. This being said, as the interview continued I began to see nuggets that I could relate to and value. I think that when you talk about the model in an abstract way it is difficult to relate to, but when specific case examples are discussed one begins to see the value in not accepting a client's reality, but encouraging them to consider a different one. It reminded me a bit of transactional analysis in terms of the game playing and self serving motives that we are perhaps not consciously aware of but which nonetheless we participate in. I admire Schnarch's willingness to confront both his clients and the status quo in therapy circles in search of a deeper understanding and an activation of our internal resources to promote change.
  • Not available avatar Russell 04.16.2012 10:41
    I, too, have more faith than Dr Schnarch that the majority of parents do not act out of hurt to inflict pain and suffering on their children. My father was a violent alcoholic who abandoned his children, perhaps understandably, perhaps not, early in his dysfunctional relationship with my mother, a victim of childhood sexual abuse by her father, and rejection by her siblings. Nevertheless, despite my mother placing my brother and I in the care of my grandmother (perhaps in the circumstances the best place for us), and despite my mother's frequent episodes of various forms of self harm, she tried to love us as best she could -- as best she could. A voluminous amount of research now shows that such individuals lack the very sort of "mind mapping" abilities, not to mention variious forms of healthy emotional recognition and emotional expression that children from more "securely attached" backgrounds have. An important first point I believe.

    A second point, I couldn't help being reminded of was the importance of values, and commitment to values -- very much in tune with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and its kindred (I feel) Christensen's Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy -- here I feel Dr Schnarch's approach is a necessary "update", evolution, of existing approaches, a much needed, but "common sense" evolution.
  • Not available avatar Irene Savarese 04.16.2012 12:04
    Thank you David and Rick for this very interesting interview. I always look forward to debates that challenge and broaden my work as a couple’s therapist.
    I will try to summarize the points in the interview as I understand them. I have a couple of questions in the end.
    1) It’s not the attachment theory that’s the problem, but the way attachment theory is practiced in the therapy room.
    2) The presence of a certain quality of attachment influence partners to relate to each other (mind mapping) in certain ways.
    3) We are always relating and communicating. The question is more how we are relating or communicating(presence) than absence of communication.
    4) A more conductive theory is an integrity based one, where differentiation and individual responsibility for how partners conduct themselves are in the foreground. When we can connect as separate people acting in accordance with self and the other, we are trustworthy because we trust ourselves and are doing what we say we are doing and expect the other to do the same.
    5) Integrity and accountability – "I can rely on myself and therefore you can rely on me", becomes more important than attachment to and dependence on the other - "I must be able to rely on you before I can rely on myself".
    6) When a partner is being hateful and disgusting, it can be seen as a function of a certain quality of early attachment being played out in current relationship. This is not unintentional but deliberate to cause the other pain.
    7) As a couples therapist I need to confront the hate and disgust right on without excusing and avoiding responsibility by allowing partners to get away with saying: “I was scared, or I didn’t know what I was doing, or I didn’t intend to hurt you!”
    I should be aiming at helping partners finding the best in each of them, and having that part stand up - differentiation.

    I would love to see a comparison between yours and Sue Johnsons. I am wondering how you work with the hateful part and how you encourage the best in the partner to stand up.
    When a partner is intentionally causing the other pain, how do you explain that to the partners?
    Sincerely Irene Savarese, Couples Therapist in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Not available avatar Keri 04.16.2012 20:41
    Thank you for an interesting and inspiring interview. It is so very refreshing to hear David Schnarch say it straight, when discussing the intent around bad or hurtful behavior. I also found it interesting to see how, we as therapists, can inadvertently become involved in the maintenance of insecurity given our connection focused orientation. Mr. Schnarch's perspective is refreshing and I would expect empowering on a very deep level for many clients.
  • Not available avatar Lucienne 04.17.2012 07:08
    Thank you for that absolutely invigorating discussion on differientation based vs attachment based psychotherapy. It was so exciting to witness the momentous " in vivo" development of our field on air. The differentiation based view is fascinating in that it seems to take a more resilient view of adults and human relationship development in correlation with science and neurobiology. It is a psychotherapy that addresses, brain change and behaviour.
    The differention or crucible approach of Dr. Schanarch recognisies the issues and difficulties in relationship processes, but cuts to the heart or crux of human resilience, to bring about meaningful long-term change through self -growth and self - regulation, not brokeness or weakness, vulnerability and psycotherapy therapy based on abscence and co regulation. Fascinating. What was the title of Thomas Kuhn's book on Science that Dr. Schanrch suggested?

  • 0 avatar najwa aref 04.17.2012 08:12
    very interesting .. Thank you , can I have the name of the artical Dr. Schanrch was talking about , I would love to read it . thank you again
  • 0 avatar Kathleen Clark Moses 04.17.2012 12:03
    Why are you transmitting session #4 w/David Schnarch again, today, 17 April. Should be session #5, Susan Johnson
  • 0 avatar Tom Hicks 04.19.2012 18:03
    Thanks for a great session. I'd love to see a series with David that would include vids of his work. To me his ideas make sense and have since I encountered his work in the Sexual Crucible. More please!
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