My Networker Login   |   
feed-60facebook-60twitter-60linkedin-60youtube-60
 

The Verdict Is In - Page 7

The Clinical Relevance of Attachment Theory and Research

There's now overwhelming empirical support for the fact that early experience is a powerful force in development. But what can clinicians draw from this work, beyond feeling reassured that their clinical intuition isn't simply an "article of faith"? For one thing, this extensive work can bring perspective to questions such as why change is so difficult and why emotional closeness can be so scary to some people. Long before children have the language and conceptual tools to process experience, negative or even traumatic patterns of interaction are incorporated in the brain, the functioning of their psyche, and even in the molecules that control the expression of their genes. Therefore, people can get "lost in familiar places" as they continually recreate their earliest patterns of interactions across the lifespan. One role of a therapist is to bring awareness to such patterns and then intentionally create new pathways for clients to take as they unlearn their long-established habits.

Another important implication of attachment research is that it's possible to develop a secure state of mind as an adult, even in the face of a difficult childhood. Early experience influences later development, but it isn't fate: therapeutic experiences can profoundly alter an individual's life course. Further, therapists can learn from attachment researchers' hard-earned insights into human development which features of relational experience are the most effective at optimizing well-being. When parents are sensitive to a child—when they pay attention to and tune in to the signals sent by the child, make sense of these signals and get a glimpse of the child's inner experience, and then respond in a timely and effective manner—children are likelier to thrive. The essential features of a therapeutic relationship mirror this process in many ways.

The brain continues to remodel itself in response to experience throughout our lives, and our emerging understanding of neuroplasticity is showing us how relationships can stimulate neuronal activation and even remove the synaptic legacy of early social experience. Developmental trajectories are complex, often having "islands" of positive relational experience, even within largely negative histories. Through therapeutic relationships and reflective practice, one can make contact with these islands—the "angels" in the nursery, to quote developmental psychologist Alicia Lieberman—and cultivate their growth to the benefit of parents, children, and adults alike. In this way, clinical practice can use the power of our attachment relationships to cultivate deep and lasting change throughout the lifespan and even stop the transmission of disabling early experiences across the generations.

Alan Sroufe, Ph.D., is the William Harris Professor of Child Psychology in the Institute of Child Development and adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota. He's been an associate editor of Develop-mental Psychology and Development and Psychopathology. His books include The Development of the Person: The Minnesota Study of Risk and Adaptation from Birth to Adulthood. Contact: srouf001@umn.edu.

Daniel Siegel, M.D., is clinical professor at the UCLA School of Medicine, where he's coinvestigator at the Center for Culture, Brain, and Development and codirector of the Mindful Awareness Research Center. He's the executive director of the Mindsight Institute and the founding editor of the Norton Professional Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology. His books include The Developing Mind; Mindsight; and The Mindful Therapist. Contact: info@drdansiegel.com.

Tell us what you think about this article by leaving a comment below or sending an email to letters@psychnetworker.org.

Resources

Ainsworth, Mary D. S., Mary C. Blehar, Everett Waters, and Sally Wall. Patterns of Attachment. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1978.

Bowlby, John. Attachment and Loss. Vol. 2, Separation. New York: Basic Books, 1973.——–. A Secure Base. New York: Basic Books, 1988.

Hesse, Erik, and Mary Main. "Frightened, Threatening, and Dissociative Parental Behavior in Low-Risk Samples: Description, Discussion, and Interpretations." Development and Psychopathology 18, no. 2 (June 2006): 309-43.

Kaffman, Arie, and Michael J. Meaney. "Neurodevelopmental Sequelae of Postnatal Maternal Care in Rodents: Clinical and Research Implications of Molecular Insights." Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 48, no. 3-4 (March/April 2007): 224-44.

MacKenzie, Michael J., and Susan McDonough. "Transactions between Perceptions and Reality: Maternal Beliefs and Infant Regulatory Behavior." In The Transactional Model of Development: How Children and Contexts Shape Each Other, edited by Arnold Sameroff. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 2009.

Siegel, Daniel J. The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are. New York: Guilford, 1999——–. Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation. New York: Bantam, 2010.

Sroufe, L. Alan. "Attachment Classification from the Perspective of Infant-Caregiver Relationships and Infant Temperament." Child Development 56, no. 1 (February 1985): 1-14.

——–. "Appraisal: Bowlby's Contribution to Psychoanalytic Theory and Developmental Psychology; Attachment: Separation: Loss." Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 27, no. 6 (November 1986): 841-49.

——–. "Psychopathology as an Outcome of Development." Development and Psycho-pathology 9, no. 2 (June 1997): 251-68.

Sroufe, L. Alan, Byron Egeland, Elizabeth A. Carlson, and W. Andrew Collins. The Development of the Person: The Minnesota Study of Risk and Adaptation from Birth to Adulthood. New York: Guilford, 2005.

Suomi, Stephen. "A Biobehavioral Perspective on Developmental Psycho-pathology: Excessive Aggression and Serotonergic Dysfunction in Monkeys." In Handbook of Developmental Psychopathology, 2d ed., edited by Arnold Sameroff, Michael Lewis, and Suzanne M. Miller. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic, 2000.

Yates, Tuppett, M., Byron Egeland, and L. Alan Sroufe. "Rethinking Resilience: A Developmental Process Perspective." In Resilience and Vulnerability: Adaptation in the Context of Childhood Adversities, edited by Suniya S. Luthar. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Next > End >>
(Page 7 of 7)