I’ve always been interested in the concept of attachment, it has just always made sense to me. Feeling safe and secure is a base need, we can survive without it but we struggle to find happiness or have positive relationships unless we have it.
All of us need a place where we are relaxed, at peace, and can be heard emotionally. It’s that feeling of crying without judgement, being able to be express vulnerability and still feel safe, a place to find a hug or have someone make you tea and give you a blanket. Knowing that is there means we have the confidence to go out in the world and take risks, because we know we have something to come back to.
Hopefully children have this from birth, a parent or carer who offers unconditional love. It means a child feels safe to learn and explore and return to caring arms for guidance and safety. Some don’t have this and this is where problems arise. I see it so much in all areas of therapeutic work. The reason the behaviour unit I used to work in many years ago was effective was because it was small, created bond and safety. Where a teenager stopped punching walls and screaming abuse and whispered:
“I can’t read”
“My best friend committed suicide”
“My mam told me I’m useless”
Once the truth is out there the real issue can be explored and the young person supported.
Attachment theory comes up in nearly every piece of counselling work at any age, even if it is to establish that healthy patterns and relationships exist to build on. We create an attachment in the counselling room, a place of safety but with the goal of not being needed any more as that security becomes internalised. My favourite part of cognitive behavioural therapy is that the therapist becomes internalised.
How helpful is that; your own little therapist and secure base inside your head and heart!
Helen Gifford is a counsellor working in both a large inner city secondary school and in private practice supporting young people and families in the North East. Helen also develops tools to help alternative expression of emotion which you can find on her website here or contact via Facebook or Twitter