Do You Know What Your Attachment Style is?

How Can Your Counsellor Help?

Your attachment patterns in your relationships are the ones you experienced from childhood. How these are formed in your earliest years play a part in determining how you react towards others. There are four different attachment styles:

  • Secure Attachment

This person feels confident both in their relationship and their partner. They feel a sense of connection, are trusting and comfortable both with their own independence and their partner's independence. They openly reach out for support when needed and offer it in return.

  • Dismissive Avoidant Attachment

People in this style tend to be very emotionally independent. They find it difficult to trust others completely and don’t find it easy to get emotionally connected. They like the fact that they don’t need emotional intimacy and they distance themselves if they are rejected or hurt.

  • Anxious Preoccupied Attachment

These people need emotional intimacy regardless of whether or not their partner is ready to give it, or the situation doesn’t require it. They need a lot of approval, responsiveness, and reassurance from their partners and if they don’t get it, it leads to them feeling anxious. People like this doubt their self-worth and depend on others for approval.

  • Fearful Avoidant Attachment

This person is in a difficult place because they have a combination of both the dismissive and the anxious styles which lends itself to them wanting emotional closeness and pushing it away. They both fear trusting others but also need their validation. They are often reluctant to express their feelings or will not admit to having them. They are more easily jealous and tend to feel threatened by other possible romantic adversaries.

Interested to know your attachment style? There are many tests available that you can do, here is one:

Considering all these different styles are formed because of the relationships, and issues in those relationships, from your younger years, it makes sense that your healing would happen within a relationship too. The way a Counsellor would help you is by offering you new ways of not just looking at yourself but also at relationships in general. When you are provided with a safe space to explore your story and feel your pain, to make sense of it, while with someone who is attuned to you, it enables you to form a new model of attachment. This secure attachment helps you to move through your old traumas and develop a new model of relating.

Therefore, the therapeutic relationship between you and your Counsellor is so incredibly crucial to therapy being successful and this relationship does not develop in one session.

It takes time to build trust and is not something that should be rushed. As you begin to feel safer, you can start to lower your wall of defences and begin to remove each layer. In 1913, Sigmund Freud hypothesized that the relationship between the therapist and patient was a key component to the success of treatment and since that time, research has shown that the quality of this relationship is the strongest predictor as to whether the outcome of therapy will be successful or not.

So, what makes a therapeutic relationship a ‘good’ one? One pioneering expert, Dr Edward Bordin, defined it as needing to have three components: an emotional bond of trust, caring and respect; an agreement on the goals of therapy; and a collaboration on the work of the treatment.

How can you help establish a good relationship with your therapist:

  • Be open and honest

  • If you are having difficulties with your therapist, let them know.