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Dodson, H. (2020). Attachment in Therapeutic Practice by Jeremy Holmes and Arietta Slade. Published by Sage Publications, London, 2018; 240 pp, £24.99 paperback. Brit. J. Psychother., 36(2):344-347.

(2020). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 36(2):344-347

Attachment in Therapeutic Practice by Jeremy Holmes and Arietta Slade. Published by Sage Publications, London, 2018; 240 pp, £24.99 paperback

Review by:
Hilary Dodson

In this book Holmes and Slade have provided a comprehensive, well written and accessible overview of attachment theory and of attachment informed therapy. Bowlby the founder of attachment theory considered that babies ‘are born with a fundamental, biological and human need for connection and attachment and that the quality and stability of these early relationships shape a range of developmental, relational and clinical outcomes’ (p. 1). When the quality of parental care is impaired the defences associated with insecure attachment (difficulties with closeness in intimate relationships) may persist into adult life. In contrast, secure attachments encourage the confidence to explore. This book provides helpful and valuable information to therapists working with the former group. They include clinical vignettes to illustrate the effectiveness of different therapist responses in attachment informed therapy. This is presented as a supplementary way of thinking, while working within a psychotherapeutic setting. It is not a replacement for psychoanalytic thinking and references are made to the work of Freud, Klein, Bion and Winnicott throughout.

The authors bring together 70 years of theory and research in Chapter 2 as a guide to the history of attachment informed psychotherapy. This includes a résumé of the principals and principles of attachment theory, research, its development and the implications for therapeutic practice. Starting with Bowlby, they continue with the development of his work by Mary Ainsworth (and her Strange Situation Procedure), Mary Main (The Adult Attachment Interview), and the works of Peter Fonagy, Howard and Miriam Steele, and Mary Target and the conception of the reflexive self and mentalization.

Bowlby's trilogy of books entitled Attachment, Separation and Loss provided the foundation for his belief in the centrality of the mother-infant attachment system. Bowlby considered that the connections made with those providing protection and care to be crucial in the development of security. It is these that provide the secure base, fostering the confidence to explore. Bowlby later observed, in boys, that there was a link between the experience of early separation and loss, and delinquency.

Holmes and Slade describe how Bowlby had been influenced by the work of Harry Harlow (1958).

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