Posted by: Edward | May 16, 2023

Securing Attachment Together

We learn how to self soothe by first being soothed. We learn how to regulate by first regulating with others.

In order to live functional lives we need to be able to self-regulate and connect and regulate with others. The best time to have learned these skills is during infancy and early childhood. The second best time is now.

Unfortunately not everyone gets sufficient experience of attuned caring and co-regulation as children to have internalized those skills. In these cases, the core role of the therapist or counselor is to be a surrogate caregiver, a good enough parent, and to create for the client what David Winnicott called a holding environment.

This is very similar to what Carl Rogers identified as the core conditions for therapeutic change: congruence, unconditional positive regard, and accurate empathy.

First, as a counselor, we must establish rapport and trust. This is to make ourselves someone the client can attach to. Then we must continually create and repair this holding environment through our calm comportment and caring attunement with our client’s ongoing present moment experience and feelings.

Carl Rogers’ insight was that if this was all we did as counselors, this would be enough for us to help our clients to change. This fosters the environment necessary for our clients to heal themselves.

The counselor can be a surrogate attachment figure that the client can use as a secure base and safe haven. Additionally, with calm comportment and kind curiosity, the counselor can help the client explore their learned response patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior, and whether they work to lead the client towards what matters them.


Nurturing Resilience by Kathy L. Kain and Stephen J. Terrell.


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