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26th July 2016 
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Attachment Centered Therapy Manchester, London and Guildford

I am Charley Shults and I have been practicing counselling and psychotherapy since 1987. I am offering Addiction Counselling in Manchester at Hampden House Psychotherapy Center, Relationship Counselling in Manchester, and Attachment Counselling in Manchester, as well as at 10 Harley Street in London.

Healing The Broken Bond:Is a book that I am working on and I will be posting regular excerpts from the book online. If you would like to read it, please do so at the bottom of this page. If you want to give me feedback or ask questions please do so using the email link. What is posted here, today, 15-3-2016, is the second post, History of the AAI. I hope you enjoy it.

Attachment Centered Therapy Manchester and London: I work with individuals, couples and families offering Attachment Centered Therapy in Manchester and London in order to help them heal difficulties related to their attachment relationships. I also find that this work has a global effect, so that those clients who do this work experience changes in all areas of their life's functioning.

Relationship Counselling Manchester and London: Over decades of working with clients, and training in many areas of specialization, I am convinced that the problems that most people present in therapy settings grow out of difficulties in their attachment relationships. These attachment experiences determine how we relate to other people in our lives, particularly those most close to us, and also how we deal with the difficulties that life presents us. I believe that by correcting these difficulties with attachment people are enabled to make the changes that they want to make and do the things that they know they need to do. My experience tells me that this is so.

Family Therapy Manchester and London: I also use an attachment based approach for working with families. Family work can be done with an entire family, or with different configurations of people from the family.

Addiction Counselling Manchester and London: I believe that most addictive disorders are due to attachment difficulties that result in unmet needs and feelings not being dealt with in an effective manner. The addictive disordered behavior develops because it is a vain attempt to meet unmet needs. While the addictive behavior provides the illusion of making things better by making the negative feelings that come from unmet needs go away, this is only temporary and so those unmet needs come back stronger than before, often leading to an escalation of the addictive behavior.

Attachment difficulties lead to other common problems, such as:

  • Trauma
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Stress
  • Relationship Difficulties
  • Panic Attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Bereavement unresolved
  • Employment problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Addictions
  • Co-dependency
  • Eating Disorders
  • Hypoactive and hyperactive sexual desire disorder
  • and many other difficulties.

    My practice for Attachment Centered Therapy, Addiction Counselling, and Relationship Counselling is in Manchester and London. My Manchester practice is within easy reach of Cheshire. I also have offices available in London, Harley Street.

    Thank you for the work you are doing for me and for Isabella*. To my surprise she has told me about her "compulsive self reliance" and even read to me some data from the website you have kindly advised to look at.... I see this... as a big step forward in her life for which I am grateful to you. We are so lucky to have a professional person like you!
    Sent from my iPad

    Healing the Broken Bond: how attachment difficulties creates problems and what to do about it.

    Mary Main System
    Mary Main’s theory was that the attachment strategy of the mother would be ‘transmitted’ to the child by some transmission mechanism that has yet to be explained, much in the way that genetic predispositions would be or perhaps more pertinently anti-bodies through mother’s milk. There was a seminal study that ‘proved’ this was so. Children’s attachment strategy was studied using the Strange Situation and they were assigned a classification, and their mothers were given the AAI and their results examined. The trouble was that in order to ‘prove’ this theory, the discourse markers for the adult attachment coding had to be made to fit the classification of the child. They were so made and they did so fit.
    You don’t have to be scientifically trained too well to see the problem with this approach. It is the tail wagging the dog. In order to achieve the expected outcome the coding system had to be jiggered accordingly.
    This assumption – notice that I have changed the term from theory to assumption – worked well enough so long as the distinction was only between secure and insecure, but beyond that, it broke down.
    There had been another study done by Everett Waters and colleagues that showed the stability of the attachment classifications over time. Those who were measured to be secure on the SSP (Strange Situation Procedure) when assessed two decades later using the AAI were overwhelmingly likely to still be secure. This was thought at the time to lend great credibility to the concept of attachment, and it does as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go very far. The corresponding finding of this study was that those who started out as insecure on the SSP were overwhelmingly still insecure on the AAI. But then things got more interesting. First, for those who did change between secure and insecure, the trend was definitely to become more insecure. Second, among the insecure categories, of A vs C, there was a great deal more movement than from secure to insecure. And third, the thing that brought about the change was almost always a seriously threatening life event of the caregivers, such as death of a parent or divorce, mental illness of a parent, and so on. Of course this observation must be somewhat speculative because the evidence is correlational and it would take more sophisticated studies to determine what precisely causes a shift in attachment strategy.
    Back to the Mary Main approach, as this coding and classifying system developed, their system, which has come to be known in some circles as the ABC+D system, had room for only the very low-numbered As, A1&2, and the low-numbered Cs, C1&2. Now, try to stay with me, and I shall try to not get lost myself, as it gets very complicated from here. Also, I am just going to call this the Mary Main system, because it is her baby more than anyone’s, and I could be particular about the ‘correct’ designations, but I figure most of you are a lot like me and would like to just keep it as simple as possible. So to call it ‘the Mary Main system’ is easy to understand and remember, so I will use it.
    The first thing that one would encounter, if one were to select an arbitrary classification scheme, is that, the more diversity in the objects being classified the more quickly the system will breakdown. In other words it will work very well on the initial objects on which the assumption was formed, but the further it is tested the less robust it will be. And this is exactly what happened. Except, nobody noticed.
    Actually, that’s not true, some people did notice, but they were in the minority. And I noticed when I read this original study purporting to show the transmission of A to A to A and so on intergenerationally. It flew in the face of my life experience and my clinical experience that the mother would transmit her attachment strategy to her child, just as she had received the ‘transmission’ from her mother. Thus an A grandmother produces an A mother who has an A child, and so on for the Bs and Cs. Again, because security begets security, this held up fine enough for the Bs, but for the As and Cs it was a whole different story. And here is where it really went haywire.
    First of all for some reason it was thought necessary to come up with whole new labels for the adult categories. Why? Don’t ask me. So the letters chosen were D, E, and F. I know what you are thinking, D equals A, E equals B, and F equals C, only for adults, not children, right? Wrong. See, you are trying to make it make sense, like one of those exam questions that ask you to match the order of things. Unfortunately, for some reason, D did replace A, and the D was dubbed ‘Depressed’, which is fair enough as the avoidant As are often quite depressed, sometimes deeply so, and typically unexpressed. But the E actually skips a place and equates with C, and the moniker for E is ‘Enmeshed’, which again is fairly true to form as Cs often do promote enmeshment, where you don’t know where your own boundaries end and someone else’s begin. Then the F gets moved back to correspond with the B, and stands for ‘Free, Autonomous’, a good enough label for the secure, balanced, individual. (For convenience sake I will now shift back to A, B, and C, as I find it just too absurdly complicated to try to use D, E, and F, and constantly remind you – and myself – that D is actually A and E is actually B except it’s not cause it’s in the wrong place and is actually C which is not F because F had to go back to take E’s place! Whew! From now on it’s just A, B, and C, okay? And if attachment strategies are going to be deemed to remain durable over time then doesn’t it make sense to keep the labels durable over time?)
    Remember as we go through this that these labels are strictly for convenience, and are chosen because they have some relevance to the strategy being described. But they lack quantity, in that they convey very little information that is useful. It is a bit like the title of a book: it can give you some idea of what is inside, but is no comparison to reading the book itself. So too these AAI labels try to capture something of the essence of the category, but can in no way accurately portray it, and in some cases if taken literally can be quite misleading as to how someone functions, which means that they can also lack quality. But nevertheless labels are handy for discussing concepts as long as we remember that the map is not the territory.
    Back to the story. Have I confused you yet? If not, just wait, the best is yet to come. Because the coding system beyond the Bs and the low numbered As and Cs – what can be described as the ‘non-clinical’ population – was inadequate, as subjects began to be encountered in the A+ range (which is A3-8) the C+ range (which is C3-8) the AC category (psychopathy) and the A/C range (which is some mixed combination of A and C) then the Mary Main system created two more categories which are brilliant in their conceptualization: they are ‘Disorganized’ and ‘Cannot Classify.’
    Imagine that, a child, or adult who is organized around being disorganized? It’s kind of like my desk. If you saw it, you might say that it is disorganized. But to me, it is organized, just not in the way that you would organize it. The point is that people have a way of organizing information so that it is useful to them. While this may appear disorganized to someone else, the point is that it works to some extent for the person. In the context in which the behaviour arose, it made sense and was the best that person could do. So disorganized became a pretty big target to hit. It would be hard to miss, conceptually: we can’t make the information about this person fit into our current organized scheme so we will create a special ‘disorganized’ category that we can fit it into and so keep our classification system organized.
    Even better is the ‘Cannot Classify’ classification. Here the researchers encountered, I presume, discordant information that, even with the ‘Disorganized’ catch-all, they could not classify. So the obvious and solipsistic thing to do was to create the ‘Cannot Classify’ classification. I can’t really spoof it any further than that. Suffice to say that Moliere or Gilbert and Sullivan could do very well with it, I expect, as the capacity for spinning absurdity onto absurdity was their speciality. Of course, one would be hard put to do better than the academics and researchers themselves.
    So why, you may ask, did they not put them into those categories that I mentioned earlier, the A+, C+, AC, A/C categories? Because they don’t have them!!! They are not included in the Mary Main system, apparently. I should make clear at this point that I have not studied with Mary Main, though I would like to, but just haven’t had the time or money for such a lavish undertaking. What I am reporting here as the Mary Main approach I have learned about through my AAI training and my reading in professional and other literature. According to Pat Crittenden, the first part of the DMM (Dynamic Maturational Model) training is based on the Mary Main model, but with a few modifications. So not having had the Mary Main training I cannot speak from personal experience about that system. But if this is true, what I consider to be the bulk, and virtually all of my clients would not be found in the Mary Main classification system except as ‘disorganized’ or ‘cannot classify’ . Such broad, undifferentiated classifications tell neither me nor the client very much about their functioning, not in any useful conceptual way. It reminds me of the New Yorker cartoon of the ‘patient’ lying on the psychoanalyst’s sofa, and the psychoanalyst had written on his pad, ‘Just plain nuts.’ It’s about as useful a system as that, really.
    That’s not a very good system, is it, one that allows you to understand the most common forms of attachment strategies – the ones that you will rarely encounter seeking psychotherapy or needing social services – but not the ones that you encounter day in and day out in one’s clientele (and in one’s personal life, truth be told!)
    I would like to add before closing this section that a great debt is owed to Mary Main and her colleagues for all of the wonderful and inventive work that they have done. To give credit, the conceptualization of an assessment instrument based on an interview that can be coded and classified in some objective, reliable, and valid way is quite a brilliant stroke of genius in its own right. So kudos for that. I just can’t help poking a bit of fun at academia when they screw it up so badly. This is just my opinion, you understand, and we all make mistakes from time to time. When one invests a great deal of time and energy, academic prestige and funding from grants and etc., it becomes very hard to admit that a wrong turn has been taken and it is time to rethink the model. Not only is it difficult to admit one’s own mistake – or indeed even to see it sometimes – but it also makes sense to ostracize anyone who challenges the existing vested interests. I think that is what happened to Pat Crittenden.