Creating a 21st-Century Learning Community
This issue is noteworthy not only for its subject—tracking the influence of attachment research on psychotherapy theory and practice—but also because it demonstrates how the Networker has evolved as a forum for discussion and debate within our field. Despite its roots in the old-media tradition of long-form journalism, this magazine has become only one component, however crucial, in our effort to embrace both time-honored modes of communication and the seemingly unlimited potential of digital connectivity to create a truly 21st-century learning community for therapists.
A case in point: during an address at last year's Symposium, our annual celebration of the rejuvenating power of face-to-face human interaction, Jerome Kagan—perhaps the world's most eminent developmental psychologist and the leading expert on inborn temperament—expressed his view that the field of attachment theory and research lacked a convincing scientific foundation and had become irrelevant. In a workshop immediately following that address, Dan Siegel, psychiatrist, brain researcher, and a strong proponent of attachment theory, challenged Kagan's assertion, and began an impromptu debate that soon mushroomed into the cause celebre of the conference. Their passionate exchange gave the lie to the idea that the "nature-nurture" controversy was old or outdated.
What happened next made the confrontation between these two intellectually formidable figures a distinctively 21st-century event. Rather than having an impact only on those who were present, the Kagan-Siegel encounter became the hot topic in the Networker blogosphere. In response to all the interest their interaction soon generated, we scheduled online interviews with both of them after the Symposium, using our expanding web capabilities to help move the dialogue beyond the drama of their initial confrontation to an elaboration of their different perspectives. Over 2,000 therapists from around the world logged into each session—far more than the number who were present for the first Kagan-n-Siegel exchange. One conference attendee—first-time Networker author Lynn Turner—was inspired to submit an extended account of her reactions to the debate, and then began work on a full-fledged feature story to unpack the historical, scientific, and clinical context underlying it. With the help of Senior Editor Mary Wylie, that article has become this issue's cover piece.
I think all of this is testimony to both the irreplaceable power of community gatherings like the Symposium and the Internet's ability to generate broader conversations that galvanize and connect people who might never meet face-to-face. The path from an impromptu encounter at last year's conference to this issue of the magazine demonstrates the Networker's ability to encompass different platforms for communication, which is increasingly making us psychotherapy's 24/7 town square.
To be sure, this issue's articles are by no means the last word on the meaning of attachment in human relationships and in the consulting room. In the centerfold, you'll find details about an upcoming series of web interviews starting in mid-April that'll allow you to continue exploring the clinical implications of the questions raised in this issue. The series will include conversations with Dan Siegel, Alan Sroufe, and Jerome Kagan, along with therapist and attachment theorist Allan Schore and attachment theory critic David Schnarch.
While much has been made of the ways in which the Internet can drain the vitality from human connection, we hope the upcoming web series and others to come will demonstrate how new communications technologies can be used to enliven professional dialogue and tap more fully into our field's collective wisdom. All who wish may listen (for free!) to the interviews, which will appear on the web in a few weeks, and use the comment boards and other vehicles for community participation to enter into the discussion themselves. So stay tuned as the conversation continues—courtesy of the digital revolution.