A distinguishing feature of attachment-based psychotherapy is to understand our predominant style of attachment through our interactions and interpersonal relationships both personal and professional. An example could be that a person might be more likely to withdraw or for another, their pattern could be to pursue, with regard intimate relationships. In an attachment-based psychotherapy, a secure base is the foundation of the work from which a person can explore creatively both the unconcious process within their internal world and also the external reality of their lives, whether the focus is on the individual, difficulties within a couple relationship, family, work related stress and the impact of living with physical illness.
An attachment-based psychotherapy works from a psychoanalytic frame using a relational approach. Psychiatrist and Analyst John Bowlby, author of the pivitol trilogy Attachment, Separation and Loss, is largely thought of as the most significant early figure in developing Attachment Theory. Together with Mary Ainsworth in the 1950's, they developed the ground breaking strange situation test, which depicts through the eyes of a camera, a number of young children and their responses to their mother leaving the room for a few minutes, being left only with a stranger. The children's variety of reactions are observed when their mother reenters the room, with the reconnection potential ranging from separation anxiety, avoidance and disorganised behaviour, to the pleasure of seeing and being held by their mother upon reunion.
A new born baby, through evolution, has an innate capacity to communicate with their parents. It is very early on that the baby learns to smile and to cry and also respond to its mother in a particular way that will gain the most favourable response. When a mother is mainly comfortable with their baby's differing moods and feelings, the infant will sense the message that it is okay, to be him, or herself. But when a mother does not have the resources available to help her baby with their feelings, she is likely to convey that all is smoother, if he or she, does not cry or draw attention to his/her unhappiness. This is one of the ways that the child may learn to adapt to the parent's need. It is this adaptation that can result in insecure attachment bonds and an internal template for behaviour to be repeated in future relationships.
Attachment and the emotional relationship that it intrinsically involves, has roots in Freud’s theory of love. Bowlby shared the psychoanalytic perspective that early experience in infancy and childhood play a major part in individual development, behavior and partner choice in adolescence and later life. Our attachment styles evolve during childhood through the relationship with mother and father or main caregiver. Sibling relationships too hold significance. How an individual responds to change or trauma is affected by our attachment style.
Current thinking on attachment theory is rich and includes the work of Jeremy Holmes, Peter Fonagy and Allan Schore, with his major contribution in pioneering the relationship between psychotherapy and neuroscience. More recently a technique has been developed by Sue Johnson in Canada, as Emotionally Focussed Couple Therapy, a short term therapy that uses an attachment frame.
It is likely that someone wishing to engage in attachment-based psychotherapy will work alongside their therapist for a few months or longer. An open ended therapy is sometimes what is needed to bring about the potential for change in understanding oneself in intimate and professional relationships and our part, within the world in which we live.