An exploration of ‘earned-secure’ attachment and the role of attachment-informed psychotherapy

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White, Meriel
Issue Date
Higher Diploma in Arts in Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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It is believed that up to 35% of the global population falls within the insecure categories of attachment, and that these insecurely attached individuals make up the majority of psychotherapy clients. Whilst research supports the stability of attachment patterns across the lifespan, as well as their transmission intergenerationally, a promising recent finding of attachment research is the discovery of a group in adult attachment studies termed “earnedsecure”. This group includes individuals who appear to have created lasting change and moved from outdated, insecure childhood models of relating, to more ‘democratic’, resilient and flexible ways of navigating the world. This paper reviews the concept of earned-secure attachment and what sets these individuals apart from their insecurely attached counterparts. It also examines the importance of a reparative relationship in providing a secure base experience for self-exploration, to help counteract sub-optimal or pre-pathogenic primary attachment relationships. The possibility of change towards earned-secure attachment offers huge opportunities to the practice of psychotherapy in guiding the therapist and informing their clinical practice. How attachment-informed psychotherapy facilitates such a change, is examined across the domains of the therapeutic relationship, non-verbal communication and the stance of self towards experience. Through provision of a corrective emotional experience, a client is enabled to integrate their different dimensions of self and internalise a secure base in order to move forward with a sense of self and interpersonal agency.