The relationships we build and attachments we make intricately effect all aspects of our lives and underpin almost all therapeutic work. The endless theories, the books and articles can make the subject a minefield; an overload of information. But when it comes down to it, how can we really create a safe and nurturing environment that allows our young people to understand a positive and secure attachment; a building of a positive relationship that can be transferred into their day-to-day lives. Insecure attachments in early life, inevitably create difficulties in relationships and problems in development later on. A lack of appropriate attention, an over-protective or controlling relationship, or emotional unavailability from a parent or carer, even in the subtlest of ways, can lead our young people to a tricky teen and adulthood.
At One-Eighty, we work with these children and young people and, as a team, we are responsible for allowing the child to find a new perception of relationships. Didier Anzieu suggests that whilst in the earliest stages of childhood a sense of attachment and self is created through the skin – touch between the infant and mother – being part of a therapeutic intervention or group later on in life can create a ‘physic skin’; a sense of belonging, trust, and understanding. This common or shared ‘skin’ creates an envelope to contain content of sessions, as well as a sense of a group ‘self’. Within this container, confidence can be built, appropriateness can be learned, and experience can be shared.
In order to help us understand how we can create such an environment for children and young people, clinical psychologist Colby Pearce, has developed a simple model that can be implemented within the home, school, and therapy space, aiding in the development of the positive attachments One-Eighty wish for these vulnerable young people.
- The Care Model
Be Consistent – Children develop and learn (including new ways of relating to others) best in a stable care environment where there is consistency in all approaches. This means that everybody involved in the young person’s life works from the same page, as a team.
Be Accessible – Children benefit from the experience of their carers being available to them. They learn this best when carers attend to them before the child has done anything to draw attention to themselves.
Be Responsive – Children benefit from the experience that their inner world is understood and their needs will be responded to without them having to go to great lengths to make it so. Communicating that their inner thoughts and feelings are understood by the caregiver, helps the child learn that their needs will be met through the responses they need.
Be Emotionally-Connected – Children benefit from the experience that their emotions are felt by their caregivers. Their experience of connection is enhanced and the foundations for empathy and self-regulation are promoted. Through their caregivers making an emotional connection with them, the child will themselves be calmed, with the result that the child will feel able to explore a range of emotions and develop their own capacity for self-regulation.
We, as the present and trustworthy adults in the lives of these young people, may be the first decent attachment they have ever experienced. Of course, we won’t be in the lives of these young people forever, perhaps some of us for only short periods of time. However, by providing a nurturing environment, we are able to help them in beginning the process of understanding that relationships can be positive and that, fundamentally, we need positive relationships with others throughout our entire lives.
Anzieu, D., 1999. The Group Skin Ego. Group Analysis. 32(3), pp. 319-329.
Ahmed, S., Stacey, J. ed., 2003. Thinking Through the Skin. London: Routledge
Mellier, D., 2014. The psychic envelopes in psychoanalytic theories of infancy. [online] Available at: <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4097205/> [Accessed on 29th January 2015]
Pearce, C., 2016. Therapeutic Childcare – The CARE Approach. [online] Available at: < https://colbypearce.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/therapeutic-childcare-the-care-approach/> [Accessed on 19th April 2017]
Pearce, C., 2017. A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorders. London: Jessica Kingsley