Secure attachments are central to our wellbeing, self-esteem and sense of belonging. They determine how secure we feel and whether we feel listened to, noticed and can trust that our needs will be met.
If the primary caregiver has been reliable, attuned to their child's needs and able to empathise with their feelings and emotional states, the child will feel secure even when things go wrong. If a child has grown up experiencing neglect, trauma and toxic stress from domestic violence, death, parental addiction, they may develop an insecure attachment pattern which can leave them feeling negatively about themselves and others.
Strong and positive attachments are characterised by two ingredients:
A Safe Haven dimension (see Circles of Security) which is caring, attentive, dependable and safe as well as able to provide the reassuring structure of warm but consistent boundaries, stability and routines. This is the role that we typically associate with positive parenting and is charcterised by the caregiver protecting, comforting, delighting in and helping their child organise their feelings (through co-regulation) ).
A Secure Base is an equally important dimension of positive attachment and relates to a child's natural urge to explore their surrounding environment in order to discover more about themself and the world in which they live. This only tends to happen when children feel safe and secure enough to explore. Associated with secure attachment this occurs when the attachment figure acts as a base of security from which the child can explore the surrounding environment returning to the attachment figure for comfort and safety when faced with a fear or threat. The role of the Secure Base figure is to watch over, delight in, help and enjoy with your child (see Circles of Security). The ability for a child to safely explore using all their senses underpins their development and learning as well as giving them a positive disposition towards life.
Attachments can be provided by close family members, carers, friends, therapists and teachers. A strong therapeutic alliance is one of the most important ingredients of play therapy and is communicated to the child by the provision of a safe and contained environment, trust and confidentiality. The Stables indoors and outdoors therapy space has been designed with these two dimensions of positive attachment at its heart.
Underpinned by research, attachment-based therapy includes a range of therapeutic approaches for birth families, adoptive families and families with permanently placed children and adolescents. Approaches used include TraumaPlay, Theraplay and creative arts therapies.
Since attachment is a relational bond with a protective and exploratory function, the aim of attachment-based interventions is to strengthen the emotional connections between the parent and child so that the chi;ld feels safe in the knowledge that their needs will be met, and able to follow their natural exploratory drive. A child can feel securely attached by feeling more loved, valued and respected. This will also help reduce their emotional distress and increase their levels of relaxation. Through a gentle, warm, playful, loving and nurturing relationship, an emotional connection will develop for the child to their primary care-giver.