Counselling & Psychotherapy For Attachment Issues

Attachment refers to the ability to form emotional bonds and empathic, enjoyable relationships with other people, especially close family members. Insecure attachment early in life may lead to attachment issues and difficulty forming relationships throughout life.

Understanding Attachment Issues

Attachment is all about the bonding process we have as children with our caregiver (s). For most of us, our primary caregivers were our parents. For some, their primary caregiver will be a grandparent or another family member, or will even be teachers or housemasters for those who have been at boarding school throughout their childhoods. However, for most individuals the primary caregiver is a parent or parents in some form . . . either biological parents, step-parents or adoptive parents.

As a child, our caregiver or caregivers were the centre of our world. Consequently, how our needs were met as children, how we were treated as we grew up and how our caregivers responded to our needs becomes internalised. This means we store those reactions inside of us and shapes the opinion we hold of ourselves, and influences how we then attach to others in our adult lives. This becomes our attachment ‘style’ or ‘pattern’.

It has been found that the attachment bond, or an infant’s first bond with the primary caregiver, (generally the mother) is essential to later attachment. A weak attachment bond can result in both social and emotional developmental disruptions. Attachment issues typically result from an early separation from parents, lengthy hospitalization, incidents of trauma, instances of neglect, or an otherwise troubled childhood. These issues may have an affect on a child’s ability to form healthy, secure attachments later in life. Attachment is related to trust and when attachments are not developed early in life, a child may not learn to trust and may not develop a conscience.

Issues are more likely to develop in maltreated infants, primarily due to neglect or the child’s being moved from one caregiver to another. Prolonged institutional care, long-term hospitalisation, or other separation from parents might also lead to the development of attachment issues, as can inconsistent behaviour from caregivers.

Attachment Theory

There are different types of attachment styles and they affect how we feel about ourselves, how we relate to others, and how we relate to intimacy:

The types of attachment are as follows:

  • Secure: The child will interact with others in the presence of the mother and will become upset when she leaves and avoid contact with strangers. This demonstrates a healthy attachment.
  • Anxious-Resistant Insecure: The child will become anxious at the presence of strangers and will not interact with them. When the mother leaves, the child will become very upset and will be unreceptive to her attempts to interact when she returns. This may demonstrate that the parent does not consistently meet the child’s needs.
  • Anxious-Avoidant Insecure: The child shows ambivalence toward the mother and toward strangers, does not want to be held, and shows no preference toward caregivers. This attachment style typically means that a child has learned that efforts to have needs met will be ignored.
  • Disorganised/Disoriented: Though a child with this attachment issue may become upset when the mother leaves and appear relieved when she returns, the child may refuse to be held, hit or rock repeatedly, and show anger toward the mother. Over half of the mothers of children with a disorganized or disoriented attachment were shown to have experienced trauma-induced depression shortly before giving birth.

Counselling and Attachment

The reason that the subject of attachment is relevant in counselling is that attachment is often at the heart of some of the issues and problems we experience as adults, especially romantic relationships or friendships. Sometimes counselling will explore this directly. It may be that you come to counselling wanting to discuss and look at a situation, relationship or event that involves your parent (s) or caregiver.

Sometimes attachment is something we end up exploring, not because you came to look at attachment directly, but because, during the therapy sessions, it is revealed to have links to what is going on in your life and the way in which you react or cope with one or several situations, events or relationships in your life, such as:

  • The way you react emotionally to certain situations
  • Your relationships
  • Your sense of confidence

Exploring your attachment can begin to set off ‘light bulb moments’, and can lead to an understanding and clarity around certain issues in your life, either past or present.

Signs of insecure attachment may include:

  • Avoidance of eye contact.
  • Avoidance of physical contact.
  • Rejection of touch or attempts at emotional connection.
  • Frequent, inconsolable crying.
  • A tendency to self-comfort.
  • A lack of interest in toys or interactive play.

How Counselling & Psychotherapy Can Help with Attachment Issues

Attachment issues that are left unresolved can interfere with the ability to maintain relationships of any kind later in life. Those with attachment issues can often benefit from therapy, as in therapy they may be able to learn what healthy relationships look like, explore ways to form constructive bonds with caregivers, and develop ways to cope with the symptoms that resulted from their early attachment issues.

Adults who have never addressed problems with attachment and who see the result of attachment issues in their lives might, in treatment, identify and explore early losses, grieve for the childhood bonds that were not experienced, and gain closure, while learning how to develop healthy attachments and accept love, if they have difficulty doing so. Through therapy, adults who have experienced attachment issues may become able to build stronger bonds with friends, children, and partners.

By looking at attachments in therapy, you come to the realisation that by examining your childhood and past experiences you begin to understand the coping strategies that you formed early on in your life and how they now impact your relationships, reactions and how you feel about yourself in the present.

As a result, of your new understanding and awareness, you can begin to process your own experiences and in so doing come to understanding and clarity about why certain things in adulthood impact you so powerfully, or why something feels particularly difficult for you.

Discovering your early experiences means you can begin to view yourself differently and more positively and you can perhaps start to approach yourself with a kindness and compassion that you have not done before.

Psychotherapy & Counselling for Attachment Disorders London

To discuss your attachment disorder in greater detail or book a tailored therapy session, simply call on 0207 205 2868 or complete the online enquiry form.

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