Clinical Counsellor

Attachment Theory

Attachment theory is beneficial to understanding our relationships with others. Bowlby developed attachment theory which initially focused on the relationship between mother and infant. He defined attached as an emotional bond to a particular individual who is seen as providing protection, comfort and support. This is a biological function that occurs during infancy and is important for an individual’s future relationships. During attachment in childhood, the individual develops beliefs and expectations about themselves and others. If individuals experience attachment-related anxiety or if they tend to seek out or avoid closeness when anxiety is activated this can continue into adulthood relationships. In adulthood, attachment occurs in romantic relationships. These differ from childhood attachment because it is reciprocal; both people become attached to each other whereas in childhood attachment, the child becomes attached to the caregiver.
Bowlby also discussed four attachment patterns; secure, preoccupied, dismissing and fearful. If an individual has a secure attachment they have low anxiety and low avoidance. They are capable of intimacy and interdependence, and they have positive views of self and others. Individuals who are preoccupied have high anxiety and low avoidance. They are preoccupied with close relationships and prone to anxiety. They also rely excessively on others for their self-worth. Individuals with a fearful attachment have high anxiety and high avoidance. They fear hurt and rejection, tend to have low self-esteem and avoid closeness. Individuals with a dismissing attachment have low anxiety and high avoidance. They tend to have high self-worth, low expectations of close others and deal with upsets on their own.
Thus, attachment theory helps us to understand our adult relationships. It can be difficult to identify which attachment pattern we are displaying, but individual or couples counselling can greatly help with this.

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