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The Role of Attachment in Adult Trauma and Recovery: From Research to Clinical Interventions

Clinical Master Class Evening held on 14 October 2015

The Role of Attachment in Adult Trauma and Recovery: From Research to Clinical Interventions

Dr Belinda Liddel, PhD

Attachment theory proposes that humans, alongside many other species, learn from an early age to seek refuge in trusted others in times of need. There has been a recent resurgence in interest around the vitality of attachments to human health. Experimental evidence suggests that attachment representations and social support can have a soothing effect that assists in the coping of stress, providing many other psychological benefits. The primary caregiver during infancy plays an important role in establishing these healthy and advantageous attachment systems. But disruptions to these attachment systems through the experience of unreliable attachments can result in deficiencies in the ability to benefit from attachments in adulthood and the development of insecure or avoidant attachment styles. Refugees are also profoundly affected by breakdown in attachment networks as conflict and forced migration disrupts connection to family, community and place. Such compromised attachment systems can significantly influence the experience, severity and maintenance of PTSD and other mental health symptoms following trauma exposure. This presentation outlined recent innovative neuroimaging and experimental research that demonstrate the role of attachments in modulating the experience of social or physical pain, stress and emotion processing. Evidence of how individual differences in attachment styles moderate PTSD mechanisms were also discussed. Understanding the mechanisms underpinning attachments will provide new evidence for how these natural coping systems might be harnessed to assist in the recovery of refugees following severe trauma exposure.

Attachment and Refugee Trauma: A Case Study of an Iranian Man’s Journey Toward Recovery

Emma Boles

Early childhood experiences play an important role in shaping the way we perceive ourselves, others and the world around us. Attachment involves the development of enduring emotional bonds between children and caregivers that occurs during childhood, and continues to have an impact throughout adult life. Trauma experienced early in life, when compounded by refugee trauma in adulthood, can give rise to significant psychological symptoms. When working with survivors of refugee trauma, consideration of an individual’s history and attachment style can provide insight into the development of trauma reactions and clinical symptoms, as well as suggest implications for treatment and recovery. Emma explored these issues through the presentation of a case study of an Iranian asylum seeker who presented with symptoms of depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress. The role of attachment in the development of the client’s presenting symptoms, treatment progress and the therapeutic relationship was also discussed.

Psychevisual online lectures

These events are recorded by Psychevisual and are available for viewing on the internet at a later date for a fee. Please see the Psychevisual website www.psychevisual.com.

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