At International Psychology Practice, the clinical practice must come from research data. Attachment Theory is the evidence-based glue of our team and what gives us a clear direction in our work
The attachment theory
According to the attachment theory, initially proposed by John Bowlby in the 1960s, children have an innate predisposition from birth to develop the best possible relationship with the caregiver, so to ensure their survival. Therefore, a particular relationship, precisely an "attachment relationship" is created with the caregiver, who is generally the mother in the first months of life, then also the father and all the ones taking care of the child.
In other words, we have learned from an early age to behave in a certain way to ensure that our attachment figures fkeep us fed, warm and protected. Each child learns to adapt to the parent's personality in order to elicit these nurturing and caring behaviors.
In a secure attachment style, attachment figures act as a "secure base": they allow to explore the world and have new experiences with the security of being helped if needed.
According to attachment theory, the behavioural style in affective relationships that was developed in the first years of life remains unchanged throughout life,"from the crib to the grave" as Bowlby said, and it can be the same for adult intimate relationships.
The experimental evidence
Bowlby's ideas, that the child's behaviors adapt to the attitudes of the parents, received countless proofs of evidence.
Among the first and best known experiments, there were Mary Ainsworth's studies from the 70s, in which a standard protocol, called “strange situation”, was used to analyze the behavior of children between 12 and 18 months, in relation to the personality of the mother. 4 main types of mother-child interaction, precisely 4 attachment styles were identified. The results have been replicated countless times in 50 years, and it has also been confirmed, not only that the attachment style remains unchanged until adulthood (unless corrective experiences intervene), but it is handed down (at least) to the third generation within the same family.
Secure Attachment: children feel free to express their unease in a situation of discomfort but soon feel reassured by the attachment figure. Adults with a secure attachment style, tend to feel at ease in interpersonal relationships, have faith in the availability of others and rarely worry about not being accepted or being left alone.
Insecure attachment - avoidant: faced with emotionally unavailable mothers, these children have learned not to express their discomfort, aware that the attachment figure is unable, or shows no interest in to comforting them; they and have learned to become far too autonomous in many activities and to reassure themselves. To obtain the closeness of the attachment figure, they use performance behaviors, or behaviors of sacrifice, or reverse care. Adults with an avoidant attachment style, struggle to form intimate and deep relationships, and they constantly expect to be dumped or unrequited so they may keep people at a distance, or be so demanding that their partners eventually interrupt the relationship (self-sabotage).
Insecure-ambivalent attachment: children are used to dealing with unpredictable attachment figures: sometimes they are over-present and apprehensive, sometimes they are totally absent. Therefore, these children ensure the physical closeness of the attachment figure by to showing their discomfort in an exaggerated and inconsolable way. Adults with an insecure attachment style experience intimate relationships with anxiety, they are intensely absorbed in the search for emotional closeness, they may need to establish continuous contact with the partner, and, in the absence of this, they can feel insecure and worthless.
Disorganized Attachment: children interact with attachment figures with inexplicable and contradictory behaviors, and who can sometimes be frightened themselves or scare them. As a consequence, the attachment figure is simultaneously perceived both as a source of security and as a source of danger and children cannot choose whether approaching or moving away from them. These are traumatizing situations and children do not show a coherent relational strategy. Adults with a disorganized attachment want to form intimate relationships but they are unable to do so, out of distrust and fear of others or because they engage in behaviors that are difficult for the partner to understand or deal with.
The goal of an attachment-based psychotherapy is to provide a corrective attachment experience, healing the relational wounds in from caregivers of the past that determine difficulties in the present.
With this in mind, the therapeutic relationship with the client is at the heart of our work. EMDR therapy can also be directed to process all the small and big attachment traumas to ensure that a secure attachment style may finally be put in place.