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Creating New Positive Attachment

At Makana Path, one of our primary goals is the empowerment of clients with the skills and strategies they can independently use daily. These skills help clients work through and cope with clinical struggles and lean on their sober support network, much like their 12-step work. Empowerment, as it pertains to attachment work, is what made the Ideal Parent Figure (IPF) protocol developed by Daniel Brown, PhD and David Elliott, PhD so appealing.

We deliver the attachment module at Makana Path in a three-day intensive, as research shows IPF has proven to show significant progress with attachment issues within three therapy sessions. This progress was shown through increases in the ideal attachment style, secure attachment. Secure attachment is promoted by fulfilling needs in five primary conditions; felt safety (protection), feeling seen and known (attunement), felt comfort (soothing and reassurance), feeling valued (expressed delight), and felt support for best self (unconditional support and encouragement). When there are deficits in these primary conditions unhealthy attachment styles present. We know these attachment styles as; dismissive, anxious-preoccupied and disorganized.

A significant struggle with attachment is that many of the experiences that affect our attachment occur prior to us having the ability to recall these experiences. These experiences are essentially stored in our body through what we call internal working models (IWM) rather than recallable memories. Our recall memory is accessible through narrative memory, which develops around 18-24 months old and doesn’t become primary until around 3 years old. There are many ways to work with IWM for healing attachment issues and IPF using guided meditations. These guided meditations assist clients in experiencing the needs from the five primary conditions for secure attachment being met. Having the experience of getting these needs met through the guided meditations assist clients in what to seek in their intimate relationships, and when these needs are not being met, they have a better understanding of what to advocate for and/or boundaries to set.

IPF breaks down into the three pillars for attachment repair. The guided meditation is part of the first pillar, in which the goal is positive remapping of internal working models (IWM) and bringing these experiences into the narrative memory. The second pillar focuses on metacognition development, which is a big word that means “thinking about thinking.” We pair this way of thinking to the identification of belief systems as our belief systems drive our thinking. It also correlates to our trauma-informed care as it pertains to identifying and reshaping negative belief systems about self, others and the world resulting from traumatic experiences. The meta-cognitive development teaches the clients several capacities and skills for identifying, challenging, and reshaping belief systems for attachment, resulting in the ability to work through unhealthy beliefs about relationships and ultimately cultivating more healthy connections/relationships.

The third pillar focuses on fostering collaborative communication and behaviors. Communication is a vital part of relationships, and often how we say things and our presentation nonverbally while talking outweigh what is actually said. Attachment plays a significant role in our characteristics and patterns in communication. The goal in this pillar is to help clients recognize how prevalent attachment styles are in communication and how those present verbally and nonverbally. Unhealthy attachment styles struggle with collaborative communication and shared intentionality when interacting with others. It teaches client to identify how their communication patterns relate to their attachment style and strategies to develop their communication styles towards secure attachment which improves connection in relationships.

While this has been a small glimpse into the attachment work at Makana Path and many of you may be reading this, thinking this is great and all, but how does this pertain to chronic relapse and addiction recovery… to put it simply, community. Community is one of many vital components to strong recovery, and to have a community is to have relationships which are absolutely affected by attachment styles. Being able to work through and improve attachment issues, not only improves personal, family and professional connections, it also improves the ability to identify, seek and maintain a healthy sober support system; a community. In last week’s Better Together blog post, Tim May wrote about the profound impact community has on our clients. I’ll leave you with this. By not having the stress and toxicity of unhealthy relationships secondary to attachment issues, this becomes one less thing kicking off the vicious cycle of addiction.

Written by: Joe Roller, LPC, LCDC