Attachment Theory and Relationships

help with attachment issues brightonAttachment theory is an attempt to explain differences in the dynamics of long-term human relationships based on how an infant connects on an emotional level to a primary caregiver – usually its mother. The theory was first developed by John Bowlby, a British psychologist and psychoanalyst.
No couples counselling spaces (or recommendations) during 2022 and 2023. Individual counselling for relationship difficulties only.
Bowlby emphasized the importance of infant-caregiver relationships particularly in terms of establishing a sense of security (often referred to as a ‘secure base from which to explore the world’) and how we carry forward our early experiences of relating into adulthood. As such, if as a baby and young child we felt reasonably safe and secure in our relationship with whoever took care of us for most of the time, so we will enter into adult-to-adult relationships with an expectation of safety and security. Alternatively, if we were not able to form a good enough secure attachment with an important person as an infant, we might find it difficult to e.g. trust others or deal with strong emotions in later life.
Attachment theory underpins many modern approaches to counselling and psychotherapy and can be useful to bear in mind when attempting to change patterns of relating that are causing us concern. Since attachment behaviour is assumed to be learned, as such it follows that new ways of relating to others can also be learned. Often, the relationship between therapist and client acts as a secure base from which to explore different ways of being with others. We are able to see that the decisions we made as infants about how to have our needs met and keep ourselves feeling emotionally safe do not necessarily apply to our current relationships. In couples counselling, attachment theory is a useful aid to finding meaning in not only our own attachment style but that of our partner’s. An understanding of why our partner might react in certain ways can help us sort out who is responsible for what, which can in turn lead to compassion, closeness and hope.
Copyright – Caroline Clarke
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