As a new member of CNW, this was my first meeting and I was impressed by the level of attendance and the quality of the presentation. Sue brought with her not only a substantial range of relevant professional experience but also an infectious enthusiasm for her subject.

Having begun by giving us a description of the scope of attachment theory, Sue continued with a brief history of its development. Using the Ten Central Tenets of Attachment Theory, Sue described how the human need to form secure attachments has evolved as an innate survival mechanism and how the sense of comfort engendered by these attachments is a vital precursor to the development of other important behavioural systems. Although it is of particular importance in infancy, the need for secure attachments persists throughout our lives with, as we develop, our attachment
behaviours changing according to our experience of important relationships.

Based on these experiences we build an internal working model of social relationships or ‘schemas’ which affect our behaviour and how we view ourselves and others. Although these schemas are formed largely between the ages of 6 months and 36 months and carried into adulthood, Sue highlighted that the human brain has sufficient neuro-plasticity that, given suitable conditions, they can be changed in later years.

As a group, we explored the kinds of maladaptive behaviours which might be exhibited by a person who did not experience secure or ‘good enough’ attachments in their early life and, following on from this, Sue described how the ‘felt security’ in someone who has had good early attachments can result in better emotional regulation, information processing, communication and self-concept.

Finally, Sue looked at how aspects of Attachment Theory can be used in therapy, working with clients with problems which may have their roots in a history of poor attachment experience.

She showed how empathy, UPR and openness, along with a focus on feelings and emotions can be used to promote positive schemas. She stressed the importance of assuring the client that, as a therapist, you will not be damaged or overwhelmed by their emotions and that there may be times that the therapeutic relationship seems to rupture but that this is okay and will be repairable. The therapeutic relationship can be used as an opportunity to model a secure attachment.

Sue described how a client can be helped to explore, for example, their past relationships, patterns of attachment, healthy and unhealthy choices they may have made, the way they react to an attachment rupture and infant attachment issues which still affect them with a view to using the self-understanding they gain from this to develop strategies in line with a secure attachment style or to develop a responsive adult self that can soothe their damaged child self.

I found Sue’s presentation interesting and enjoyable and left for home with new insights into some of my clients, friends and even family members!

Andrew Blake

Out of 47 attendees, 24 feedback forms were submitted showing:

Presenter’s Style – 13 excellent, 9 very good, 2 fair
Presenter’s knowledge – 19 excellent, 4 very good, 1 fair
Content of presentation – 16 excellent, 5 very good, 3 fair
Discussion/Q&A – 8 excellent, 6 very good, 6 fair, 3 satisfactory, 3 poor, 2 no comment

Comments included:
“Very knowledgeable and related examples to own clients — made it easier to understand”

“A day course needed. Fascinating speaker’s night”

“Good review but a little too much information and theory”

“Herculean task”

“Venue easy to locate and well suited”

“This was my first session. It was really informative, I really enjoyed it. Thank you”

“Lack of time. Shame last part rushed as that was the bit I was interested in but was a lot to cover”

“Really enjoyed the evening and really informative”

“Brilliant insight about new therapies”

“I learned a lot during this session. A lot of materials. A day workshop would be beneficial”