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Chambers, J. (2018). From Broken Attachments to Earned Security: The Role of Empathy in Therapeutic Change (John Bowlby Memorial Conference Monograph, 2011), Edited by Andrew Odgers, Karnac Books, London, 2014, 160 pp.. Psychodyn. Psych., 46(3):449-452.

(2018). Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 46(3):449-452

From Broken Attachments to Earned Security: The Role of Empathy in Therapeutic Change (John Bowlby Memorial Conference Monograph, 2011), Edited by Andrew Odgers, Karnac Books, London, 2014, 160 pp.

Review by:
Joanna Chambers, M.D.

This book is a compilation of the seven papers presented at the John Bowlby Memorial Conference in March, 2011, now seven years ago. It begins with an introduction to the eight accomplished individuals who served as editor and authors, including Sandra Bloom, Sue Gerhardt, Jane Haynes, Oliver James, Andrew Odgers, Anastasia Patrikiou, Eleanor Richards, and Kate White and a description of their work.

In the first chapter titled, “Attachment Theory and the John Bowlby Memorial Lecture 2011: A Short History,” Kate White describes how attachment theory has evolved over the past 18 years and how the John Bowlby Memorial Lectures have reflected these changes. It begins with the importance of John Bowlby’s work with attachment theory as it provided a new understanding of childhood trauma. The chapter lists and briefly describes the lecture topics including Mary Main, Daniel Stern, Stephen Mitchell, Peter Fonagy, Beatrice Beebe, Susie Orbach, Jody Messler Davies, Kimberlyn Leary, Bessel van der Kolk, Arietta Slade, Amanda Jones, Jude Cassidy, and Sandra Bloom. A description is given for how each of these pioneers helped contribute to the evolving understanding of attachment in both research and clinical settings.

The next chapter, “The Effort of Empathy,” by Sue Gerhardt, includes a wonderful description of the development and use of empathy in a treatment with a mother-infant pair. The case vividly demonstrates the importance of empathy and attachment in the therapeutic process and the effects they have on the mother-infant relationship. Through empathy in the treatment of the mother, both the mother and the infant are able to identify and learn how to regulate their emotional needs.

In the third chapter, “Love Bombing: A Simple Self-help Intervention for Parents to Reset Their Child’s Emotional Thermostat,” Oliver James describes an intervention for children from age three to puberty to improve secure attachment. The intervention, which he calls “love bombing,” entails a defined period of time, lasting anywhere from a few hours to several days, when the caretaker allows the child to be in control. The child is made aware beforehand that this time is special for them. Throughout the “love bombing” session, the child is repeatedly reassured how much they are loved, and the child gets to decide what the activities will be.

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