I spent the weekend getting trained on Attachment Focused Coding System by Reiner and Splaun (2008). I was excited about getting this training for a few reasons. For one, I had been feeling like an underachiever while so many of my colleagues are pursuing their Ph.D and thought getting certified in something might alleviate some of my envy. Second, there are times when saying, “I am just a clinican” feels lacking and completely unsophisticated. Third, I have always gravitated toward the Adult Attachment Inventory to be used as a possible tool in preparation for perspective adoptive parents. Fourth, I have been a long “fan” of Miriam Steele ever since hearing her do a talk about attachment in children in foster care/adoption, I was intrigued. She so compassionately showed how the parents who found more “success” in parenting a child with a complicated history were the ones who were, themselves, more securely attached human beings. I am oversimplifying all she shared, but I walked away thinking, finally someone who is not putting the narrative burden on the child!
When this traning came up, I jumped at the chance to return to the New School for Social Research (http://www.newschool.edu/nssr/center-for-attachment-research/) I had been there a long time ago with a family and watched with fascination as they deciphered the interactions between a newly adopted child and his parents. As a non-researcher, I wanted to see if getting training in the administering of “story stems” might bolster my clinical understanding and interpretion of my clients and their interactions with their parents. I have more work to do before being fully “certified.” I have more coding to do and more thinking about the practical application of what I learned before feeling brave enough to administer anything. It did give me more words to describe a child though and create a narrative around how he might view his parents, adoption and himself.
If there was one thing I got out of this weekend, it was something the presenter said on the first morning of her presentation..”Attachment patterns are not about the child alone. It is about the specific parent-child relationship.” And there you go. Can we now focus on something else besides a child’s attachement? Can I stop feeling like I have to fix the child or work on a child so he attaches to his parents? Can “the relationship” now be a solid third client in the room? The “attachment of the child” is quickly wearing on me and I was relieved to hear this while being in a room of post-docs and fellows, several of whom are studying Reactive Attachment Disorder in children.
I recommend any clinician to spend time with researchers in their field of choice. They speak a different language and it is a language I was happy to familiarize myself with. It helped me better understand the importance of words and looking at transactions between a parent and child in separate, discrete terms. This parsing out of attaching or rejecting behaviors in a parent are actually the very negotiations a child does in reading his parents. Learning to distinguish these nuances actually informed me of the “inner working model of a child” (another great concept!) and how he sees his world as secure, safe, dangerous, helpful or not. It also showed the amazing resilience in children no matter how complicated their environment or situation.
My hats off to my colleagues jumping into this line of work and taking on the brutal task of analyzing and decoding our relationships. I hope I can be in your company a little longer. At least to provide you with a great set of data for analysis!