The Attachment Dance With Clients
The work done with Circle of Security © tells us that by age 11 months infants can identify if the needs they have make their caregiver uncomfortable or not. If a caregiver is uncomfortable with allowing a child to explore the child will develop a strategy of “being clingy” to maintain connection with that caregiver. If a caregiver is uncomfortable welcoming a child in when they have big feelings or need safety the child will develop a strategy of “having no needs” to maintain connection with that caregiver.
I was sitting in session once with a client that I had been working with for quite some time. I found myself feeling curious about our work at the beginning of our relationship compared to the present-day work. When we first started working together, they seemed so open, eager, and willing to experiment with different interventions. However, as our work continued over the years I noticed the client was less open, and not quite as eager. I check in frequently with clients about our relationship, my approach, our goals, and how the direction of our work is feeling – and my client confirmed they were happy with the work we were doing.
So what was I noticing? Was I perceiving the client as less open or less eager, but actually the client’s authentic adult-self had shown up due to the safety of our relationship? Had there been a rupture I wasn’t aware of that created less safety in the room for the client to be open and eager? Was the client simply in a season of needing to use a strategy of being less open and eager to maintain regulation? As many of our listeners know I LOVE, LOVE Circle of Security ©. My mind naturally wandered to, “What is the comparison of 11 months of age in child/parent time to treatment session number in client/therapy time?” At what session does the client begin to take note of what the therapist is and is not comfortable with, and do they use the same strategies they did as an infant, or does a new strategy arise? I don’t have the answer to these questions…yet! Stay tuned for an episode where Abby and I explore this further, and potentially have found some answers.
For more questions like these, and themes around attachment showing up in the therapy space for both therapist and client check out the live recorded Coffee and Chat under the “store,” section.