Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications

By Jude Cassidy; Phillip R. Shaver | Go to book overview

24
Contributions of Attachment
Theory to Infant–Parent
Psychotherapy and Other
Interventions with Infants
and Young Children

ALICIA F. LIEBERMAN

CHARLES H. ZEANAH

The goal of this chapter is to examine how attachment theory and research have influenced clinical practice, with a particular focus on infant–parent psychotherapy and other preventive interventions that promote infant mental health by addressing early disturbances in parent–child relationships. Only programs and approaches with clearly articulated clinical and preventive goals are described. The chapter is divided into four major sections. The first section describes the shared psychoanalytic origins of attachment theory and infant–parent psychotherapy, provides an overview of infant–parent psychotherapy and its relation to attachment theory and psychoanalysis, and explores attachment theory’s evolving contributions to clinical practice. The second section illustrates the integration of attachment theory and infant–parent psychotherapy into several clinical programs for infants and toddlers. The third section describes other programs and approaches influenced by attachment theory. The final section reviews the few studies evaluating the efficacy of attachment-focused interventions. Some brief concluding remarks highlight the importance of a trusting working alliance, empathy, and sensitive responsiveness to emotional signals as the hallmarks of clinical approaches based on attachment theory.


ATTACHMENT THEORY AND
INFANT–PARENT PSYCHOTHERAPY:
SHARED ORIGINS

There is an inherent affinity between attachment theory and infant–parent psychotherapy because of their common emphasis on the importance of the mother–child relationship in the first 3 years of life as the bedrock for healthy emotional development. Both attachment theory (Bowlby, 1969/1982) and infant–parent psychotherapy (Fraiberg, Adelson, & Shapiro, 1975) emerged in the 1970s as seminal influences on the thenemerging field of infant mental health. Although representing different conceptual frameworks, Bowlby and Fraiberg were both psychoanalysts, and their work bears the unmistakable imprint of the object relations approach to psychoanalytic theory that was the prevailing clinical Zeitgeist.

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