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Harris, T. (2015). Not by a Fence: A Reminder for Attachment Psychotherapists about the Importance of the Client's Current External Social Network. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 9(2):176-187.

(2015). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 9(2):176-187

Not by a Fence: A Reminder for Attachment Psychotherapists about the Importance of the Client's Current External Social Network

Tirril Harris

This paper takes detailed findings by a team of medical sociologists investigating depression and anxiety, with whom Bowlby was in touch over the last decade of his life, and highlights their relevance for the practice of psychotherapy. Study of this team's examples of “good-enough” and “poor” emotional supportiveness, akin to Ainsworth's maternal sensitive responsiveness, throws light on how therapists can sometimes help clients avoid pain and develop reflective function by viewing the responses of people around them in a less personal light, listing other reasons why these others might have reacted in this negative way. This heals the sense of humiliation that has often been produced. Familiarity with such examples can also help therapists more efficiently monitor their own responses and avoid damaging the working alliance by failing to register how easily these can have negative effects. Not limiting attention to attachment states of mind, but also concentrating on the more objective nature of the resources of emotional support to which each client has access, can also give extra focus to therapeutic work on helping change their defences and internal working models of relationships, and can better inform decisions about when someone is ready to end a therapy.

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