Presentation on theme: "Joanna Bettmann Schaefer, Ph.D, LCSW Research Director Re"— Presentation transcript:
1 Joanna Bettmann Schaefer, Ph.D, LCSW Research Director Re How do we use relationships? Attachment dynamics between parents and teensJoanna Bettmann Schaefer, Ph.D, LCSWResearch DirectorRe
2 Agenda Defining attachment Attachment dynamics in adolescents Attachment dynamics in parentsAttachment dynamics while teens are in wilderness treatment
3 What is Attachment?John Bowlby developed attachment theory out of his work with abused children in EnglandHis ideas grew from: evolutionary biology, ethology, developmental psychology, and cognitive sciencePrimary proposition: the infant’s tie to the mother emerges out of evolutionary pressures–a biologically based desire for proximityInfants predisposed to seek proximity to parents in times of distress (survival, biological function)
4 Bowlby’s Attachment Theory A child is born with a predisposition to become attached to caregivers.The child will organize their own behavior and thinking in order to maintain those attachment relationships, which are key to psychological and physical survival.The child will often maintain such relationships at great cost to his/her own functioning.The distortions in feeling and thinking that stem from early disturbances in attachment occur most often in response to the parents’ inability to meet the child’s needs for comfort, security, and emotional reassurance.
5 Internal working models Why does the past so often predict the future? Why do abused children tend to go into abusive relationships as adults?The internal working model reflects one’s relationship history, including expectations for relationships and beliefs about themThe internal working model is not a reflection of reality, but of the internalization of it
6 Basic Principles of Attachment Relationships Proximity maintenance (seeking closeness)Separation distress (protest when separation is involuntary)Safe haven (returning to the attachment figure when faced with threat)Secure base (greater ability to explore in presence of attachment figure)
7 Parent-child Attachment Patterns (as defined by Mary Ainsworth) Secure child = distressed at absence of mother, able to be soothed at reunionInsecure-anxious child = very distressed at absence of mother, seeking contact at reunion but also angryInsecure-avoidant child = avoids mother when distressed, seems blase’Disorganized child = mix ofthe previous attachment stylesIn Ainsworth’s protocol, children were rated as “secure” if they approached their mothers for nurturance if upset during her absence. If these “secure” children weren’t upset by the mothers’ absence, then they greeted her with warmth and wanted to interact with her. Conversely, children were rated as “insecure-avoidant” when they avoided their mothers at her return. Children were rated “insecure-ambivalent” if they mixed anger with proximity-seeking behaviors. A later category, “disorganized,” was assigned to children who adopted strategies from each of the other types, but not one type predominantly.The ideas of Ainsworth and her team had far reaching impact. The ability to define qualities of attachment type enabled researchers to begin to hypothesize about what kind of adult would grow from what kind of infant and what kind of parenting linked to what kind of behavior in children. Researchers moved closer to understanding the role of infant and child development on human development, an understanding which continues to develop today.What about our own attachment style?Interactive Exercise:Following there are descriptions of four general attachment styles that people often report. Please rate each of the relationship styles below according to the extent which you think each description corresponds to your relationships with others:Not at all like me Very much like me 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 A. It is relatively easy for me to become emotionally close to others. I am comfortable depending on others and having others depend on me. I don’t worry about being alone or having others not accept me (Secure) B. I am comfortable without close emotional relationships. It is very important to me to feel independent and self-sufficient, and I prefer not to depend on others or have others depend on me. (Dismissive)C. I want to be completely emotionally intimate with others, but I often find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I am uncomfortable being without close relationships, but I sometimes worry that others don’t value me as much as I value them. (Preoccupied) D. I am somewhat uncomfortable getting close to others. I want emotionally close relationships, but I find it difficult to trust others completely or to depend on them. I sometimes worry that I will be hurt if I allow myself to become too close to others. (Fearful)Now please chose one of the four styles (A,B, C, D) from above that best describes your relationship with others. It is clear that no one of the descriptions might be completely accurate for you. Nevertheless, choose the one that describes you better than the three others The description that I chose is: _____(Bartholomew)
8 This process supports secure attachment between parents and children
9 HAVEN SAFE CIRCLE OF LIMITED SECURITY I SECURE BASE CHILD MISCUING: RESPONDING TO PARENT’S NEEDSHAVENSAFESECUREBASEI NEED SUPPORT FOR EXPLORATION BUT…THAT MAKES USUNCOMFORTABLESO...I NEED COMFORT AND/ORI ACT LIKEPROTECTIONI MISCUE YOUAND...This is the pattern for anxiously-attached children
10 HAVEN SAFE CIRCLE OF LIMITED SECURITY II SECURE BASE CHILD MISCUING: RESPONDING TO PARENT’S NEEDSHAVENSAFESECUREBASEI MISCUE YOUAND...THAT MAKES USUNCOMFORTABLESO...I NEED COMFORT AND/ORPROTECTION BUT…I ACT LIKEI NEED TOEXPLOREOR BEDISTANTThis is the pattern with avoidantly-attached children
11 Attachment Changes Over Time InfantsSeek the mother primarilyNeed to be fed, held, diaperchanged, rocked to sleepRely on caregivers entirelyImportance of one primary caregiverToddlersNeed high level of care and alsosome freedomSchool-Aged and Latency Children
12 Attachment Changes Across the Lifespan AdolescentsSeek peers more obviouslyStill need attachment relationships with parentsOften resist being held by parents, want to be held by boyfriend or girlfriendShifting from family of origin toromantic relationships outside of familyOften appear in flight from familial attachment relationshipsAdultsNeed attachment relationships too: usually found in spouse/partner/close friends
13 Parents’ Own Attachment Styles Are you secure (autonomous)?Anxious (preoccupied)?Avoidant (dismissive)?Disorganized (unresolved)?Fearful?It is relatively easy for me to become emotionally close to others. I am comfortable depending on others and having others depend on me. I don’t worry about being alone or having others not accept meI am comfortable without close emotional relationships. It is very important to me to feel independent and self-sufficient, and I prefer not to depend on others or have others depend on me.I want to be completely emotionally intimate with others, but I often find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I am uncomfortable being without close relationships, but I sometimes worry that others don’t value me as much as I value them.I am somewhat uncomfortable getting close to others. I want emotionally close relationships, but I find it difficult to trust others completely or to depend on them. I sometimes worry that I will be hurt if I allow myself to become too close to others.
14 Attachment Behaviors in Adolescents and Adults Comfort with closeness (secure vs. avoidant attachment style)TrustRelationship satisfactionCommitmentCloseness and interdependenceSelf disclosureAnxiety over relationships (anxious attachment style)Lack of trustRelationship dissatisfactionJealousyHigh levels of conflictCoercion, domination and distress in response to dyadic conflictLack of compromiseThese are all issues to consider when thinking about our clients and their attachment styles(Feeney, 1999, inHandbook of Attachment)
15 Attachment dynamics which might emerge during wilderness treatment How do you respond to your child’s distress calls?Notice how your child uses his/her relationship with you: avoidant, seeking care, mixing affection and angerNotice: are you able to be sensitive to your child’s feelings, as well as your own?If you are assessing the attachment style of a mother and her infant, it will look different then the attachment of a mother and a teenager. Will explain further.
16 Attachment dynamics which can emerge during wilderness treatment (continued) How accurately can you sense your child’s motives and feelings?How has your child’s ability to use the attachment relationship with you changed over time?How do you personally respond to separations and reunions? What gets triggered for you?
17 Basic principles of attachment relationships applied to parents and teens Proximity maintenanceSeparation distressSafe havenSecure baseThese are the same principles we talked about in relation to mothers and babies, but now we’re talking about adults and clients -How important are each of these principles to forming a therapeutic alliance, an effective working relationship with a client?[Talk about each principle applied to the role of the therapist]“Therapy concerns itself over and over again with loss, separation, and reunion – both in its consideration of such events in patients’ lives, and in the constant separations and reunions that are intrinsic to the therapeutic process.” (Slade, Handbook of Attachment, p. 589)Bowlby (1988) viewed the therapist’s emotional availability as central to the healing in psychotherapy, because only when the therapist behaves in a sensitive, empathic (i.e. secure) way is the patient able to separate childhood projections from his or her real experience in psychotherapy and in life. (Slade, Handbook of Attachment, p. 589)“From an attachment perspective, the model of a successful or helpful treatment involves a patient’s capacity to make use of therapy and of the therapist in a ‘secure’ way – namely, to be able to reflect upon his or her life story together with the therapist, and then to bring that shared understanding and meaning into everyday life in a way that is transforming and healing. In other words, treatment provides the patient a means to contemplate and indeed reexperience his or her life story within a safe and healing context, with an emotionally available and sensitive other who ‘marks’, and thus gives new meaning and shape to, life events and the patient’s sense of self and relationships.” (Slade, Handbook of Attachment, p. 586)“Even when the therapist provides a ‘secure base,’ serving as an emotionally available, responsive, and empathic ‘companion’ to the patient (Bowlby, 1988), patients whose attachment organization is insecure are likely to respond to the therapist in ways that are consistent with their lifelong patterns of defense, affect regulation, and security operations.” (Slade, Handbook of Attachment, p. 587)
18 Re-conceptualizing adolescent attachment behaviors Re-conceptualize acting out in terms of attachment needsObserve separations, reunions, attachment triggers, relational needsPreoccupied adolescents: seeking more from attachment figures, demanding, dependentDismissive adolescents: rejecting of help, diverting attention, difficult time with emotional content
19 Supporting parent and adolescent attachment needs Honor importance of relationship transitions: goodbyes, losses, changesAllow time to process their changing relationship with youPeer and staff departuresAllow time to process aftercarePrepare adolescents for relationship lossesGarner support for your own relational lossesTransitional objects as reinforcers of positive attachment experiencesTransition to wildernessTransition out of wildernessJ presentsLeavings trigger attachment issues – e.g. Courtney shutting down when she knew she was leaving – frame this as healthy defenses, student closing down so that they can maintain ego integrity and not fall apart with the leavings and goodbyesComfort objects, sucking thumb and other child-like activities okay – can work on promoting more adult self-soothing activities, but don’t take away child activitiesWrite down positive feedback
20 Thank you!Contact Info for Joanna:Her office:Karen, R. (1994). Becoming attached: First relationships and how they shape our capacity to love.Cassidy and Shaver (Eds.) (1999). Handbook of attachment.