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  • Writer's pictureCandice Hopkins

Repairing insecure attachment - The Ideal Parent Figure Protocol

How do therapists treat attachment patterns which continue to have an impact on our relationships as adults?


If you’re interested in therapeutic theory or attending therapy yourself, it’s possible that you’re familiar with the different attachment patterns that arise out of our early development. The attachment period occurs in the first two years of life and these early experiences become a map for future relationships. When there are difficulties in the attachment period, challenges in relationships may occur in adult life and need to be addressed through therapy.


Despite our caregivers' best efforts, they may have had challenges in being with us in the ideal way necessary for the development of secure attachment. The memory of the ways our parents were with us, or not, creates an internal model or foundation from which our adult relationships are subsequently built.


The qualities necessary for secure attachment are -


  1. Protection and safety

  2. Emotional attunement

  3. Comfort and Soothing

  4. Expressed delight in the child’s being

  5. Support for exploration


These qualities need to be relatively consistent for the formation of secure attachment, without which a child may grow up to have ‘insecure attachment’. Clinically, there are up to 12 types of attachment style but these fall into the 3 broader categories - secure, anxious/preoccupied, dismissive/avoidant.


One method of treatment to reactivate, adjust and integrate a stable and secure foundation for our relationships through therapy, is the Ideal Parent Figure Protocol, originally researched and practiced by clinicians Dr Daniel Brown and Dr David Elliott. Following the initial stages of therapy, in which your therapist will take the time to understand any current challenges, goals and early life history, this treatment can be employed to positively shape an experience of secure attachment, altering your current day experience and relationships.


Benefits of attachment repair through the Ideal Parent Figure Protocol


 Benefits from the Ideal Parent Figure Protocol may be felt from the very first session and generally increase and stabilize over time. Benefits can include -

 

·        Increased emotional regulation

·        A felt sense of safety

·        Improved self-esteem

·        Enhanced self-development or an increase in the quality of relating to one’s own mind.

·        Changes in adult relationships (following consistent and frequent sessions)

·        Seeking more secure adult romantic partners

 

The Ideal Figure Protocol


1.      Relaxing into imagination

 The process of creating a secure foundation through the IPFP, begins with locating positive or comforting sensations in the body, to promote relaxation and support the accessibility of internal systems which are responsible for our early memory and identity. is formed.

 

2.      Imagining your ideal attachment figures

 Rather than accessing memories or experiences from the past, your therapist will guide you from this space of relaxation to imagine the ideal parent figures, from which a new attachment model This is a collaborative shaping, in which your therapist trusts that the ideal parents can emerge through the imagination without prompting specific qualities - that you have the ability to access your own unique needs, that were unmet in childhood. These unique needs are encouraged by your therapist, through suggesting adjustments based on your verbalised behaviours of the ideal parents. The role of your therapist is critical for any supportive adjustments, as they listen closely throughout the process of describing your ideal parent figures and refer back to their clinical understanding of your developmental history. How a client experiences their ideal parents will vary widely and imagery may take time to cultivate.

 

3.      Consolidation of the secure base for attachment repair

 Treatment of attachment disturbance through the IPFP takes between 20 – 50 sessions, as consistency over time allows for the remapping of old, maladaptive attachment maps.

Over time, your therapist may reduce the frequency of the IPFP, as a secure internal model successfully integrates. It is normal to experience insecurity or challenges to a secure way of being and relating, upon which the IPFP can be re-introduced in sessions, as needed, to help reinforce and actively work with the newly established foundation within.


A short example guided by one of the founders of the ideal parent figure protocol can be founded here - Imagine Ideal Parents (Powerful Exercise) | Dr. Daniel P Brown | TheBCCP - YouTube




The Spring Clinic has a range of psychotherapists and counsellors who are trained in administering the ideal parent figure protocol. Please contact us for a free discussion to find the right therapists on your journey to healing attachment.

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