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Attachment Styles in Couple Therapy

Updated: Nov 9, 2022

According to attachment theory, infant care - giver attachment provides the secure foundations for future bonding and attachment relationships with others. These early attachment experiences lay the path how individuals are influenced by them, and how they respond to their world, how they create an inner core model, a guide to self-development including self-esteem , identity, and self-efficacy. Childhood attachment security is associated with caregivers responsiveness and consistency, experiences of insensitive caregiver is lifelike to form negative patterns of behaviour and self-identity.

Adult attachment relationships serve many to recreate the same protective and security functions previously served by childhood attachment relationships, Organised Attachment suggest that secure attachment somewhat stable across the life span of the individual.

Secure Attachment: Ideally, from the time infants are six months to two years of age, they form an emotional attachment to an adult who is attuned to them, that is, who is sensitive and responsive in their interactions with them. It is vital that this attachment figure remain a consistent caregiver throughout this period in a child’s life. During the second year, children begin to use the adult as a secure base from which to explore the world and become more independent. A child in this type of relationship is securely attached. Dr. Dan Siegel emphasizes that in order for a child to feel securely attached to their parents or care-givers, the child must feel safe, seen and soothed.

Disorganised Attachment: is characterised by inconsistent strategies in relationships. As child the individual has experienced neglect, abuse, or severe loss. Their parent may have been unresponsive, highly intrusive, inconsistent or punitive, or otherwise insensitive to the child needs. Studies of Disorganised attachment are also found in trauma, borderline and narcissistic personality disorders, it also been associate with controlling behavioural patterns or hostile, both in adult romantic relationships.

Dismissive - Avoidant Attachment: There are adults who are emotionally unavailable and, as a result, they are insensitive to and unaware of the needs of their children. They have little or no response when a child is hurting or distressed. These parents discourage crying and encourage independence. Often their children quickly develop into “little adults” who take care of themselves. These children pull away from needing anything from anyone else and are self-contained. They have formed an avoidant attachment with a misattuned parent. Those who had avoidant attachments in childhood most likely have dismissive attachment patterns as adults. These people tend to be loners; they regard relationships and emotions as being relatively unimportant, often provoking feeling of overwhelms. They are cerebral and suppress their feelings. Their typical response to conflict and stressful situations is to avoid them by distancing themselves. These people’s lives suffer from imbalance: they are inward and isolated, emotionally removed from themselves and others.

Fearful-Avoidant Attachment: People who grew up with disorganised attachments often develop fearful - avoidant patterns of attachment. Since, as children, they detached from their feelings during times of childhood adversities / trauma, as adults, they continue to be somewhat detached from themselves. They desire relationships and are comfortable in them until they develop emotionally close. At this point, the feelings that were repressed in childhood begin to resurface and, with no awareness of them being from the past, they are experienced in the present. These people’s lives are not balanced: they do not have a coherent sense of themselves, nor do they have a clear connection with others.

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