Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ties that Bind

The accepted evidenced-based treatment for most mental health problems is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Focusing on thinking and doing works well for issues like anxiety, depression, stress and trauma. But it misses the mark with most children and even some couples. Now there is growing awareness of the impact of attachment on the functioning of children as well as adult relationships. Attachment is that brain-based connection we make with our parent that forms the template for all future relationships. The parent drives this process by consistently meeting the basic needs of the child particularly in the first three years of life. Commitment to this one-to-one relationship leaves the child with basic trust that transfers to others and forms the basis for healthy self esteem and pro-social behavior. Because children are completely dependent on their parents they cannot be expected to make changes toward healing on their own. This is particularly the case when the relationship is new, strained, or damaged. Then the focus of healing is on the relationship itself. The repair work returns to the building blocks of attachment in nurturing and play. And so it is with adult couples when the roots of distrust are in childhood and partners meet each others needs.