How to Cultivate Earned Secure Attachment for Complex Trauma Clients: A Phenomenological Study of Therapist's Experiences
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This thesis is a qualitative study exploring psychotherapists’ experiences of how to cultivate earned secure attachment in complex trauma clients. The study also explores therapeutic stances and interventions that facilitate this. Earned secure attachment bestows the same qualities and resources as secure attachment in childhood, and refers to the unique ability of human beings to heal their own wounds by evoking healing experiences that have been missing from their lives. It can be developed through healthy and contingent relationships in adulthood, and can also be cultivated through healthy, attuned relationships to our “selves.” The review of the literature incorporates the existing theoretical knowledge on the dynamics that lead to secure attachment in childhood and adulthood, with a bi-directional focus on verbal and nonverbal affective co-regulation and internal self-regulation of affect, as the predictors of a healthy secure attachment. Participants include experienced attachment oriented practitioners and trainers (n=3), chosen because of their clinical orientation in Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP) and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. Data was collected in open-ended interviews and phenomenological analyses, which yielded six themes for achieving earned secure attachment for complex trauma: (a) conditions of safety for affective co-regulation; (b) therapist’s modeling of secure attachment; (c) processing and making sense of trauma-related emotions; (d) compassion to counter shame; (e) rewiring the Internal Working Models of attachment; and (f) awareness and patience with disorganized attachment.