Attachment theory was first defined and studied by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, and has since been expanded upon by many researchers and practitioners. Some well-known professionals in the practice and theory of attachment include Sue Johnson, John Gottman, Philip Shaver, Peter Fonagy, Julie Schwartz Gottman, John M. Gottman, and Ed Tronick. This theory explores a wide variety of attachment development such as biological, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, psychopathology, and attachment in systems and cultural contexts. Attachment theory illustrates how from early in life, humans seek to create secure bonds with preferred attachment figures. In childhood, the preferred attachment figure is typically a caregiver. As we mature, we often shift our attachment to one intimate other, choosing a partner with whom we seek to bond, using methods such as creating proximity, responsiveness, and safety (amongst ways), and often resulting in deep connection. When something thwarts or threatens that connection, this activates our attachment system, alerting us that something is wrong, and initiating a set of responses that are intended to re-establish connection. Sometimes, the methods we use to get reconnected may not always be successful, and may grow out of attachment styles we developed through childhood and into the present. Our relationship may become riddled with circular arguments, withdrawal, criticism, or various patterns in relationships that increase a sense of isolation and loneliness, rather than the closeness we are seeking.
Our attachment styles of childhood may be repeated in our adult relationships. In bonded relationships either in childhood or adulthood, where we are safe to explore, differentiate, and grow, we often create secure attachments. In adulthood, we have the possibility of transforming attachment styles that were less than secure. In bonded relationships, even people who experience insecure, avoidant, ambiguous or combinations of these ways of attaching, can create new styles of relating that can ultimately, grow a relationship and the individuals within it. Without transforming our ways of relating, we may be more likely to slip into patterns of behaviour that can harm relationships and the couple-bond. Unfortunately, patterns that go uninterrupted can diminish the health of a relationship and may lead to relationship dissolution.
Attachment therapists work with you to create more relationship health, resiliency, security, and connection. They are facilitators for the growth of your relationship. Attachment therapists presume that behaviour is understandable within an attachment lens, even that which seems counter-productive in the moment. Attachment therapists also hold a deep respect for the uniqueness of each person and couples’ experiences, while at the same time, helping clients to understand the universality of many relationship challenges. At its base, attachment therapy is humanistic, experiential, and grounded in proven approaches to change. This means that the therapeutic relationship is fostered, clients are respected as their own wisdom-bearers and decision-makers, and that change happens by evoking, experiencing, and transforming emotionally. Attachment therapists are guides to help couples understand current cycles of problems and their underlying needs and fears, and to find way to change these states for greater connection.
Carla Duda, M.C. (Couns. Psych.), R.C.C. Copyright © 2023 Valhalla Therapy - All Rights Reserved.