Your attachment styles is just one of the topics that we may explore in couples counselling, to help you better understand yourself and your partner.
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:
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, such as this one: https://psychologytoday.tests.psychtests.com/bin/transfer
Considering all these different styles are formed because of the 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.
If you have questions or concerns about your sessions, raise these
Studies show that when you talk about the relationship, it is a highly effective strategy for improving the relationship and this, in turn, improves your chance of a successful outcome.
Debra Bragança is based in the Redlands, Brisbane and also offers online counselling. She has specialised training in relationship and marriage counselling and works with her clients around issues that impact these relationships which can also include individual concerns such as anxiety, depression, illness and traumatic life events. Debra is an integrative family and marriage counsellor, who has lived experience in many of the individual concerns she works with, as well as a stable and happy marriage of more than 20 years. Debra's lived experience, work experience, qualifications and training ensures that she is well equipped to support her clients. Debra provides a warm, empathic and private setting where clients will feel validated, respected and heard without fear of judgement. Here they will develop self-awareness of their thoughts, feelings and behaviours as they move forward towards a more fulfilling life. Debra is a registered member of the Australian Counselling Association.