I tend to work within an attachment model – paraphrasing Bowlby’s concept of attachment: we learned how to behave in close relationships based upon how safe and how available our primary caretakers were, and based upon how well they were attuned to us.

For example, if we had primary caretakers who neglected us to a large part when were young, we would have adapted our behavior to fit that situation. According to Bowlby, this is part of our evolutionary heritage – like the way a newly hatched gosling will follow around the first object (attachment object) it sees. We tend to keep this initial learned manner of relating to others when we enter into close relationships later in life. Healing is possible in such a relationship if the parties involved are open to the possibility of being safe attachment figures for each other, leading to safer and more fulfilling relationships. Many times trauma resolution work is also necessary in order see the other person as a safe attachment figure, and in order to become a safe attachment figure (i.e., non-threatening).

I find this approach especially helpful to couples where one or both parties experienced childhood trauma. It goes without saying that this approach is essential to working with children and families. It also applies to the internal families we each have within us.