Attachment in Counselling
What is Attachment?
Attachment is all about the bonding process we have as children with our caregiver (s).
For most of us, our primary caregivers were our parents. For some, their primary caregiver will be a grandparent or another family member, or will even be teachers or house masters for those who have been at boarding school throughout their childhoods. However, for most individuals the primary caregiver is a parent or parents in some form . . . either biological parents, step parents or adoptive parents.
As a child, our caregiver or caregivers were the centre of our world. Consequently, how our needs were met as children, how we were treated as we grew up and how our caregivers responded to our needs is internalised. This means we store those reactions inside of us
This internalisation, of how our caregiver responded to us, shapes the opinion we hold of ourselves and influences how we then attach to others in our adult lives.
It becomes our attachment ‘style’ or ‘pattern’.
There are different types of attachment styles and they affect how we feel about ourselves, how we relate to others, and how we relate to intimacy.
Counselling and Attachment
The reason that the subject of attachment is relevant in counselling is that attachment is often at the heart of some of the issues and problems we experience as adults.
Sometimes counselling will explore this directly. It may be that you come to counselling wanting to discuss and look at a situation, relationship or event that involves your parent (s) or caregiver.
Sometimes attachment is something we end up exploring, not because you came to look at attachment directly, but because, during the therapy sessions, it is revealed to have links to what is going on in your life and the way in which you react or cope with one or several situations, events or relationships in your life, such as:
- The way you react emotionally to certain situations
- Your relationships
- Your sense of confidence
Exploring your attachment can begin to set off ‘light bulb moments’, and can lead to an understanding and clarity around certain issues in your life, either past or present.
Why is Counselling useful in relation to Attachment?
By looking at attachments in therapy, you come to the realisation that by examining your childhood and past experiences you begin to understand the coping strategies that you formed early on in your life and how they now impact your relationships, reactions and how you feel about yourself in the present.
As a result, of your new understanding and awareness, you can begin to process your own experiences and in so doing come to understanding and clarity about why certain things in adulthood impact you so powerfully, or why something feels particularly difficult for you.
Discovering your early experiences means you can begin to view yourself differently and more positively and you can perhaps start to approach yourself with a kindness and compassion that you have not done before. In doing this you can begin to bring about the changes you would like in the areas of your life you are finding difficult at present.