Attachment Issues in Psychopathology and Intervention

Attachment Issues in Psychopathology and Intervention

Attachment Issues in Psychopathology and Intervention

Attachment Issues in Psychopathology and Intervention

Synopsis

To be a human being (or indeed to be a primate) is to be attached to other fellow beings in relationships, from infancy on. This book examines what happens when the mechanisms of early attachment go awry, when caregiver and child do not form a relationship in which the child finds security in times of uncertainty and stress. Although John Bowlby, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, originally formulated attachment theory for the express purpose of understanding psychopathology across the life span, the concept of attachment was first adopted by psychologists studying typical development. In recent years, clinicians have rediscovered the potential of attachment theory to help them understand psychological/psychiatric disturbance, a potential that has now been amplified by decades of research on typical development. Attachment Issues in Psychopathology and Intervention is the first book to offer a comprehensive overview of the implications of current attachment research and theory for conceptualizing psychopathology and planning effective intervention efforts. It usefully integrates attachment considerations into other frameworks within which psychopathology has been described and points new directions for investigation. The contributors, who include some of the major architects of attachment theory, link what we have learned about attachment to difficulties across the life span, such as failure to thrive, social withdrawal, aggression, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, dissociation, trauma, schizo-affective disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, eating disorders, and comorbid disorders. While all chapters are illuminated by rich case examples and discuss intervention at length, half focus solely on interventions informed by attachment theory, such as toddler-parent psychotherapy and emotionally focused couples therapy. Mental health professionals and researchers alike will find much in this book to stimulate and facilitate effective new approaches to their work.

Excerpt

The goal of this book is to push forward thinking about the clinical aspects of attachment theory. The need is ironic given that John Bowlby, the founder of attachment theory, was a physician and psychoanalyst whose overriding purpose involved comprehending psychopathology. However, his most influential collaborator, Mary Ainsworth, was a developmental psychologist primarily interested in attachment theory as a key to understanding typical development. In some respects, she and her developmental psychology colleagues “hijacked” the research agenda, such that decades of study focused on typical mother–infant interactions. This hijacking was so successful that two decades after the publication of the first volumeof Bowlby's trilogy on attachment, Bowlby wrote an article in the American Journal of Psychiatry entitled, “Developmental Psychiatry Comes of Age;” the thrust of the paper rested almost entirely on the work of developmental psychologists studying typical development in nonclinical samples. That same year (1988), Jay Belsky and Teresa Nezworski published an edited book, Clinical Implications of Attachment. Although a landmark volume of massive current relevance, the book was about “implications” rather than “applications” because there were virtually no clinical data available. It is true that this situation has changed in the intervening years, but not dramatically; articles combining the clinical interests of Bowlby with the developmental insights spawned by Ainsworth number in the dozens, rather than in the hundreds. And even here, the focus is on understanding psychopathology rather than on treating it.

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