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Attachment in Therapeutic Practice

Attachment in Therapeutic Practice

First Edition

November 2017 | 240 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

This is a concise, accessible introduction to the basic principles of attachment theory, and their application to therapeutic practice. Bringing together 70 years’ of theory and research, its expert authors provide a much-needed user-friendly guide to attachment-informed psychotherapy.

The book covers:

  • The history, research base, and key figures and concepts of attachment theory
  • The key concepts of attachment theory, and their implications for practice
  • Neuroscience implications of attachment and its therapeutic relevance
  • The parallels and differences between parent-child attachment and the therapeutic relationship
  • The application of attachment in adult individual psychotherapy across a number of settings, also to couples and families
  • The applications of attachment to working with complex disorders
  • The applications of attachment in child psychotherapy
Background: Attachment Science
Attachment’s Principals and Principles
Attachment-informed Psychotherapy: Definition and Overview
Affect Regulation in Attachment and Psychotherapy
Sensitivity, Mirroring, and Play: Foundations of Attachment Security in Caregivers and Therapists
The Neuroscience of Parental Sensitivity
‘Earned Security’: Attachment and Resilience
‘Organised Insecurity’: Fostering Security through Therapeutic Conversations
‘Disorganised Insecurity’: Attachment Approaches to Complex Disorders
From Stasis to Movement: An Attachment Model of Psychotherapeutic Change
The Improbable Profession: An Attachment-Bayesian Model of Psychodynamic Change
Attachment, Mentalising, and Child Psychotherapy: Working with Parents
Attachment in Couples and Families
Attachment and Society
Selected Attachment Bibliography

Two extraordinary clinicians with decades of research and writing on attachment worked with immense application and skill to distill what is essential in attachment theory and brought it to psychotherapeutic practice. The result is an exceptionally comprehensive and profound work of lasting value for every clinician – regardless of orientation. The book is a guide to improving the practice of the most experienced therapists at the same time as offering the friendliest and most accessible of introduction to this complex field. It is a remarkable achievement from two of the most sophisticated and respected authors on the clinical application of attachment theory. It provides a vivid picture of the process of bonding and lifelong transformation which attachment theory inspired therapy can bring. The book is for everyone who is serious about working psychotherapeutically and will not be bettered as an introduction for many many years to come

Peter Fonagy
Professor of Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Developmental Science

Holmes and Slade have provided exactly what the mental health professions have needed—a comprehensive examination of how attachment theory informs psychotherapy that is entirely accessible to beginner therapists, but also highly informative to seasoned clinicians. This superb text deserves a place on the shelves of every psychotherapist.

Geln O. Gabbard, MD
Author of Long-Term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: a Basic Text

This book is a ticket to journey along with Jeremy Holmes and Arietta Slade as they describe their sophisticated and creative views on attachment theory, research and the co-created space of the therapist-patient relationship. With the addition of evocative and varied clinical vignettes it's as if one is being personally invited into the consulting rooms of these two gifted clinicians to hear how they use an attachment perspective to inform their work. This book is indispensable to both the clinical apprentice and the seasoned practitioner.

Miriam Steele
New School

The authors tell us ‘Despite exuberance of theory, once in the consulting room, psychotherapy is a practice in search of a theory.’ But we have theory! (I for instance studied first cognitive-behavioural, then systemic, then psychoanalytic theory; all are useful, what more do you want?)  Also, as an attachment researcher and writer, I thought I would know the field. But this book draws together the history and cutting edges of attachment in ways that give really fresh angles on clinical experience. Learning attachment interviewing and coding, 25 years ago, added a powerful layer to my listening to patients (and to myself on the couch). Reading this book I am again shown that attachment theory and findings illuminate every other kind of clinical theory we use, and everyday life for good measure. 

Professor Mary Target
Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families

This is a very helpful mini-handbook for students as well as practitioners of attachment-based relational psychotherapy. It is written with many vignettes to explain concepts.

Gulcan Sutton Purser
New Directions in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalytic Relational Therapy
New Directions in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalytic Relational Therapy

A very useful book for all trainees and practitioners wanting to understand how the basic principles of attachment theory inform clinical practice.
The book is concise yet comprehensive, highlighting key important concepts of attachment theory and how it influences the therapeutic encounter. This is demonstrated with clinical vignettes, where the authors highlight important aspects of attachment theory and illustrate how attachment informs clinical work.

Mrs Ana Paula Wellbrook
Counselling and Psychology, City Lit
December 19, 2021

Excellent introduction to use of attachment in practice.

Dr David Large
Geography & Environmental Management, Northumbria University
November 28, 2019

This book has been added to the recommended reading list for my learners. It is very informative on all areas of attachment in the counselling field.Giving case studies and vignettes to spark thoughts on what to do and how to recognise various forms of attachment.

Miss Sam Ford
Psychology, Southend Adult Community College
April 25, 2019

Quite difficult to find books which make clear in a relatively simple way the clinical applications of the attachment theory. This book does it !

Ms Linda Morison
School of Psychology, Surrey University
February 6, 2018

A thoughtfully written text of great interest to students and professionals studying attachment theory and its application to practice. Accessibly presented with frequent and timely use of vignettes and case studies which really aid application and understanding of behaviours to practice experiences.

Ms Madeleine Burton
Institute of Health & Society, Worcester University
March 26, 2018

Sample Materials & Chapters

Attachment’s Principals and Principles