Research and practice related to why we develop problems and how we change is starting to come of age.
There is now a rich body of research stemming from neuropsychology, attachment theory, psychodynamic theory, cognitive-behavioural theory, and clinical psychology that better informs us about the process of change. My particular focus is in the field of attachment theory. The basic premise of attachment theory is that our problems often stem from earlier attachment experiences and relationships. The type of environment we are raised in and our parents or caregivers responses to us gives rise to particular adaptations, personality traits, and at times problems. Our attachment experiences influence a number of neurobiological pathways and can impact our emotional world and emotion regulation skills, self-awareness, how we see ourselves and others, levels of trust and security, interpersonal styles, defences, and belief systems. Drawing from these fields my particular approach adopts a number of principals.
1. Healing and Transformation
The basic idea of all therapy is that we have within us the capacity and resources to change, heal, and transform. In fact it is often our very difficulties and struggles that compel us to change and heal in some way.
2. Safety, Compassion, and Caring
An important component and catalyst for any change is an environment of safety, caring, and compassion. An environment of danger, threat, and judgement is only likely to keep us constricted or trapped in some form. However, when we come from a place of relative safety and security we are more likely to take risks and chances.
A large part of who we are stems from our relationships, attachments, and connections to other people. The research on attachment literature provides a rich source of information that demonstrates how other people's responses (particularly parents and caregivers) can shape lifelong relational patterns. Particular attachment experiences might determine whether we tend to be consumed by relationships, dismiss and avoid them, or feel overwhelmed by them. They can also influence how we relate to ourselves - are we kind and compassionate or self-critical and punitive. As such a vital component of therapy often involves exploring relationship patterns with others, to ourselves, and also with the therapist.
4. Mindful and Reflective
Another component of therapy is to adopt a mindful stance during session - that is to try to observe our experience with a sense of curiosity, equanimity, and non-judgement. Furthermore, therapy endeavours to reflect and process a client's experiences and beliefs.