Meeting 14th May 2015 – Presented by Sue Hawkins

As a mark of Sue’s standing in the Counselling world once again large numbers of people turned out to hear her talk and they were not disappointed with the content and delivery of this fascinating and topical subject.

Sue is a psychologist and therapist working primarily with children and adolescents who have experienced significant trauma, abuse, neglect and loss. However over a significant period of time Sue has come to the conclusion that therapy, regardless of the age of the client or the client’s presenting issues, often involves elements of early insecure attachment in their formative years.

We are biologically pre-programmed for attachment in order to survive and gain security and trust both in ourselves and with others. This attachment starts at birth and the origins, styles and stages of attachment were discussed in detail by Sue in her usual comprehensive, relaxed, interactive style of delivery.

Different parenting styles tend to be passed down through the generations, and these were examined in detail together with the effects on the developing child and its brain and the brain’s evolution.
We discussed the four attachment styles and their usefulness in helping us to understand our own clients: how insecure early attachment may present in children, young people and adults and the type of mental health problems which may have their origins in poor early attachments.

The contributing factors to promoting brain development were explored together with attachment-focused therapies e.g. providing a ‘secure base’ for the client, relaxation, mindfulness, hypnosis, visualisation and helping parents with their own ‘blocked’ or unresolved feelings.

The talk was concluded with some points to ponder – “Developmental trauma starts in utero when there’s not much more than a brain stem and goes on during the pre-conscious years. It usually continues until 36 months when the thinking brain (frontal cortex) comes on line “ (Bessel van der Kolk).

Recent studies have shown that we only need one positive attachment in order to thrive and that this does not have to be the primary caregiver. (Sroufe et al, 2005)
The brain is ‘plastic’ and continues to develop especially up to the age of 30.

Attachment may change throughout our lifespan and therapeutic relationships can provide a ‘corrective attachment experience’ and new therapeutic methods in treating attachment are becoming available all the time.

What a great evening: as usual Sue’s knowledge and dedication shone through and her enthusiasm never waned. I hope Urooj who organises our speakers’ pro-gramme can persuade Sue to speak again to CNW during the 2015-16 Season.

Pat Howard