Fascinating article about the attachment theory in the theraputic relationship

Why therapy works is still up for debate. But, when it does, it’s methods mimic the attachment dynamics of good parenting.’

During a random online browse this morning of my therapists public twitter account I found this article she shared… it so accurately describes how we work together. So amazing to read this and imagine that all the attachment stuff I panic about so much, she is comfortable with and actually wants to encourage… I don’t know what the rules are for sharing parts of a blog post so hopefully this is allowed… I just found the whole thing mindblowing and would encourage you (if you’re interested in the clinet therapist relationship) to read the original article.

Link –


I’ve included some of my favourite passages from the blog post… (PLEASE READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE IT’S AMAZING!)

‘What happens between client and therapist goes beyond mere talking, and goes deeper than clinical treatment. The relationship is both greater and more primal, and it compares with the developmental strides that play out between mother and baby, and that help to turn a diapered mess into a normal, healthy person. I am referring to attachment. To push the analogy further, what if, attachment theory asks, therapy gives you the chance to reach back and repair your earliest emotional bonds, correcting, as you do, the noxious mechanics of your mental afflictions?’

‘The way to treat these problems, say attachment theorists, is in and through a new relationship. On this view, the good therapist becomes a temporary attachment figure, assuming the functions of a nurturing mother, repairing lost trust, restoring security, and instilling two of the key skills engendered by a normal childhood: the regulation of emotions and a healthy intimacy.

‘This pattern of empathising, then re-framing and de-shaming looks uncannily like the mirroring-and-soothing exchanges between mother and infant in the first years of life. Spend any amount of time around a newborn and you’ll see that, when baby cries, mum swoops in, picks him up and then scrunches her face in an exaggerated imitation of his distress. According to Peter Fonagy, a psychopathology researcher at University College London, who has long studied children and young people, the mother’s amplified reflection forms a key part of the child’s developing a sense of self and emotional control. ‘Anxiety, for example, is for the infant a confusing mixture of physical changes, ideas and behaviours,’ he told me. ‘When the mother reflects, or mirrors, the child’s anxiety, he now “knows” what he’s feeling.’

‘After a while, clients internalise the warmth and understanding of their therapist, turning it into an internal resource to draw on for strength and support. A new, compassionate voice flickers into life, silencing that of the inner critic – itself an echo of insensitive earlier attachment figures. But this transformation doesn’t come easy. As the poet W H Auden wrote in The Age of Anxiety (1947): ‘We would rather be ruined than changed …’ It is the therapist’s job, as a secure base and safe haven, to guide clients as they journey into unfamiliar waters, helping them stay hopeful and to persist through the pain, sadness, anger, fear, anxiety and despair they might need to face.’

Once again, the process mirrors good caregiving early in life. Long before speech, mother and infant communicate with each other via nonverbal cues – facial expression, mutual gaze, vocal nuance, gesture and touch. In the squeeze of his fist, in the batting of an eyelash, the sensitive mother ‘reads’ her child’s emotional states and responds appropriately through her own body.

‘The good practitioner subconsciously tunes in to those emotions left unsaid, to the internal states the client might not even be aware of. Moment by moment, the therapist adjusts her own body language in response to her client’s internal rhythms, engaging them in a kind of dance in which both partners mutually influence and synchronise themselves to each other.