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P004, Attachment, Session 5, Sue Johnson


Sue Johnson, one of the originators of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) will discuss, in today’s session, how Attachment Theory can help clinicians conduct effective therapy, particularly in couples work.

She’ll cover how to use an understanding of Attachment Therapy to enhance emotional presence with clients, how to work with clients’ emotions during therapy, how therapists’ own attachment relationships can affect the therapeutic process, and much more.

After listening to this session, “Attachment Patterns in Couples Relationships,” please take a few minutes to reflect on what you’ve learned so far in this webinar, to ask any questions you may have, or what you thought was most interesting and relevant. We invite you to include your name and hometown and to respond to other participants’ comments and questions, as always.

04.28.2011   Posted In: P004 New Perspectives on Practice: The Great Attachment Debate   By Psychotherapy Networker
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  • Not available avatar kati morrison 05.03.2011 13:18
    Many thanks for the amazing amount of info in such an enjoyable way. I am a member of the Ottawa Attachment Study Group. We are addressing the grandparent attachment at this time.Your presentation was great help in that area as well. Any study you can recommend? Many thanks Kati
  • Not available avatar keith 05.03.2011 13:36
    I usually require some time to metabolize the abundance of information presented in this great webseries.
    During the wrap-up of this presentation, and review of points discussed(human beings are social bonding animals & need connection to other beings), my mind thought of the young Bradly Manning and the months of solitary confinement he has been subject to for his alleged part in the wiki leaks. If our goal as therapists is to assist in the growth and development of healthy individuals, so that they may engage in healty relationships, that inturn create a healthy society, what good comes from destroying an individual's interior self.
    • Not available avatar sue johnson 05.09.2011 20:15
      your point is a great one Keith - and can be applied to lots of situations - we force folks in jails to spend lots of time alone - and then we continue as a society to pay for the stuck levels of development that they are caught in - sue
  • 0.1 avatar Wendy Greene 05.04.2011 10:54
    I have always been drawn to attachment theory (wrote my dissertation on attachment in young adulthood 20 years ago)--and I found this presentation so clear, rich with information and thought-provoking. It was a great antidote to last week's presentation, which I found disturbing. There is something so uplifting about seeing the therapy relationship as the secure base and helping individuals and couples internalize this sense of felt security, better regulate emotions and relationships. So thank you so much Sue, and Rich, your comments and summaries are so helpful!
    • Not available avatar sue johnson 05.09.2011 20:16
      you are most welcome Wendy - sue j
  • Not available avatar Kristen 05.06.2011 10:34
    Thank you SO much, Sue! I was already sold on attachment theory (for individuals and couples) before your webinar, but you laid it out so well that you inspired me to keep learning so I can do it better and better. I particularly liked your comment that "self and system are two sides of the same coin." Yes! This is SO critical--that attachment and differentiation go together--yet so often overlooked in attachment conversations. Thanks for stating it so well and concisely.
  • Not available avatar Joy Lang, MSW, RSW 05.06.2011 10:42
    Thank you so much for this presentation. It really helped to solidify for me some practical strategies for working with couples. I'm looking forward to attending the Externship training through ICEEFT in order to increase my skills and knowledge around using attachment theory with couples. Thanks again Rich for your insight and ability to summarize so succinctly. This really tied together nicely with the presentation by Dan Siegel.
    Joy, Waterloo, ON
  • Not available avatar Gail Smith LCSW 05.07.2011 20:01
    Thank you for a very "loving" webinar. Attachment theory as the ultimate longing in the human experience takes on a very spiritual meaning. The emotional connection of human beings mimics and perhaps leads the personal journey of self exploration and ones relationship with something greater than the self. Thanks again.
  • Not available avatar Gene Kol 05.08.2011 12:07
    A friend in South Africa asked me to watch this as i use attachments in individual and couple work. It was so beautifully put that i hope many therapists have come to realise that this is one of the most effective ways of working with individuals affording them the opportunity to grow in their relatiosnhips through the sound and secure base set out by the unconditionally empathetic collaborative therapist. Thanks.
  • Not available avatar Susan LW Miller 05.08.2011 20:48
    Another beneficial addition to the 'attachment debate' or as you stated Rich, the 'attachment exploration'. I consistently learn something new or remember something important when I hear your presentations Sue. Thanks to each of you. Two contributions were particularly useful – (1) As a therapist, using an emotionally collaborative as opposed to a coaching, directive and/or educative approach in therapy. Now I’m concerned my educative approach may interfere with the experience of safety in the therapeutic context; (2) The experience of ‘seeing that my pain hurts you’ [the other] is an important component when interpersonal hurt has occurred. Again, thanks. Susan LW Miller
  • Not available avatar Michael Basta 05.09.2011 00:15
    Thanks Sue (and Rich) for a clear and inspiring presentation. As a Gottman Method Couples Therapist I am always drawn to EFT, Sue's presentations, and attachment theory as I believe that this work helps to deepen my practice and understanding of couples therapy. However,I must admit that there is part of me that yearned for a bit more "debate" than "exploration" and some direct commentary contrasting EFT with Dr.Schnarch's approach as he described it in last week's webinar. I took home Sue's statement that "we do not differentiate from people, but instead we differential with people". Thanks again, Mike Basta
  • 0 avatar Nick Child 05.09.2011 06:45
    I've said it before but I'm happy to say it again from here in Scotland and the UK - thanks for this inspiring and energising webinar, and the many others the Psychotherapy Networker has been giving (or selling!) us! The webinar and internet technology means you can have for free - or at least cheap at the price - much the same or perhaps even more intimate learning experience in your own home without the time and expense of travelling to a conference. I hesitate to use "virtual" and "real" because the webinar might be more real in its effects and use than the conference! About EFT, this session reminded me of how skilful if also ordinary the clinical work with an emotional focus is. These webinars are not training, but it still seems that each time I listen carefully to Sue I can picture myself first holding a difficult emotion in the room, building talk about it, then getting a person to say it to their partner. Maybe I'll even get to the point of knowing how to work with traumatic and "unforgiveable" things so that a couple can repair their relationship and move forward. Many thanks. Nick Child
  • Not available avatar Dawn Taylor 05.09.2011 15:43
    I can't get the video to go beyond 26 minutes. Is there a trick to it?
  • Not available avatar Sharon Kocina 05.09.2011 18:38
    First, Rich, there were technical difficulties. I couldn't rewind, pause or fast forward.

    It would be interesting to hear a conversation between Sue Johnson and David Schnarch.

    • Not available avatar sue johnson 05.09.2011 20:23
      Hi Sharon - I am afraid - from my experience that there is not a lot of conversation possible with David - my main point would be that there is no comparsion between the research base and clinical richness of attachment ( and differentiation is in fact part of attachment) and the limited view of differentiation that David espouses - sue j
    • 0 avatar Psychotherapy Networker 08.18.2011 11:46
      Hi Sharon,
      We're sorry to hear you had technical issues. Please feel free to e-mail support@psychotherapynetworker.org and let them know what your specific problems were, so they can help you as possible.
  • Not available avatar Niquie Dworkin 05.09.2011 20:20
    I agree with previous comments that it would have been helpful to hear Sue Johnson address David Schnarch's critique. I think most of us would probably agree that we all prefer to believe Johnson's more sanguine view of human nature, but is it possible that Schnarch is the bearer of the bad news that we resist but need to hear? That there is a sadistic motivation as well as a self-protective motivation in relationship conflicts? There is a lot to think about in considering these two compelling but difficult to reconcile perspectives.
    • Not available avatar Jason Esswein, LMFT 02.07.2014 04:41
      I couldnt agree more! Would love to discuss over phone or in person if you feel up for it.


  • Not available avatar sue johnson 05.09.2011 20:33
    Hi Everyone - thank you for your validating comments about our webinar - I hope you will continue to read about adult attachment and all the research that clearly outlines how that the way to a confidant, coherent and flexible sense of self is Through secure connection - not through separateness and defining others negatively -
    I really enjoyed the webinar - and to Niquie who wonders whether my view of human nature is too positive - I say - it still leaves us with lots of problems - but you might like to read Frans de Waal's Age of Empathy - he is a primatologist - Best to you all - sue j
  • Not available avatar Susan LW Miller 05.09.2011 22:28
    Rich, I missed Schnarch's presentation last week b/c of no availablilty to a web connection... Any chance the seminar will be repeated? Thanks. Susan LW Miller
  • 0 avatar David Harris 05.10.2011 13:28
    what;s the youtube link for used in Sue's prez?
  • Not available avatar Winifred Reilly 05.10.2011 22:50
    As a couples therapist with a strong background in differentiation based relationship therapy I must say that the off-hand comment about the "richness" of attachment theory and the "limited" nature of differentiation theory shows limited understanding of what differentiation actually means. As a result of this misconception, Sue clearly misses the point of working with differentiation in couples work. Differentiation is hardly about separateness and defining others negatively, as Sue mentions above.

    Differentiation is about developing the internal sturdiness and stamina to tolerate the anxiety that accompanies intimacy. It is about having the self-soothing skills to take risks, to hold steady under pressure, to "hold oneself tight" when one's partner is too anxious or unsteady to be there. A common occurrence, as we all know.

    The goal of the work I do is to help my clients have closer and more loving relationships, to be courageous and in touch with themselves and willing to reveal themselves- the same goal that I imagine the EFT therapist has, only achieved by a radically different means.
  • Not available avatar Paula Oleska 05.11.2011 23:10
    I've been fascinated by the Attachment webinars. I adore both Jerome Kagan and Daniel Siegel. There is no questions that temperament plays a big role in people's lives. It's enough to visit any maternity ward to notice that babies are born with different temperaments. One of my clients, who comes from a family of five, quoted her mother as saying: "If I judged myself by my first two children, I would have thought I'm a complete failure and if I judged myself by my last three, I would have thought I was I genius". Her children obviously bonded differently based on their temperament. However, no matter what temperament, all children need to be securely attached. The path to attachment may be different for different temperaments and to some degree could be a function of the interaction between temperaments of the parent and the child, but that interaction will result in some kind of attachment. Outgoing temperament may have an easier time recovering from trauma or separation, but it does not mean it will not need stable and responsive interaction with the parent. About the David Schnarch's sessions: paradoxically, what he has demonstrated is a successful attachment his clients develop. As Susan Johnson pointed out, differentiation comes from a secure attachment. He just goes about it in a different way. With his comments/interpretations, he demonstrates to his clients that he understands them on a deeper level and possesses superior knowledge with which he can help them. He also lets them know he will be really honest with them. This way he creates a safe space where his clients decide they can trust him. But not everybody is cut out to conduct sessions in his confrontive style! So what he also proves that temperament plays an important role in therapy as well. He will no doubt attract clients who need that kind of temperament and so they will benefit from this style. I think we are seeing an interesting play between attachment and temperament! But without attachment nothing will happen...
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