Attachment theory in counselling and therapy


Blog Post B2: Theory of emotive-cognitive embodied-narrative therapy

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

13th June 2021


Principle Number 2 (of 20):

Each of us is born with an innate attachment drive…

…which causes us to attach ourselves to a main carer

woman in beige sweater carrying baby

Hello, and welcome to this, the second of twenty blogs about the basic theory of emotive-cognitive embodied-narrative therapy.

The first blog in this series argued that, if you want to understand a human being, any human being, you have to start from the reality that we each begin our life as a helpless baby.

In this blog I want to present the second principle of emotive-cognitive embodied-narrative therapy, as follows:

“… I accept the Attachment theory proposition, that the baby is born with an innate attachment drive, which causes it (after a period of about twenty to twenty-four weeks of development) to seek to attach itself to a main carer.  The attachment bond that is formed becomes either secure or insecure, depending upon whether the mother (or main carer) is “good enough” – meaning sensitive, responsive, and caring enough to soothe the affective states[1] of the baby.  Later father and siblings become important attachment figures for the baby. And the baby forms a set of internal working models of relationship based upon those earliest relationships.”


happy black woman drinking wine with boyfriend

Over the many years that I have been involved in counselling and therapy, I have worked with dozens and dozens of disturbed or unhappy couples.  Very often, what I find is that one partner has an insecure attachment style which makes them anxious about losing their partner, and so they cling to their partner for dear life – shadowing them and trying to control their movements – so that they, the first partner, do not have to feel intense feelings of fear of abandonment.

Sometimes the other partner also has an insecure attachment style, but of a different variety.  This other variety is an avoidant attachment style, which makes them feel anxious that their partner will try to control them, or be available for a while and then let them down.  So, this second partner hates it when the first partner clings to them, or tries to regulate their movements.

This is a recipe for misery.

When I work with clients who have an insecure attachment style, either anxious or avoidant, I use my relationship with them to help them to feel what it is like to be in a secure relationship – unlike the insecure relationships they grew up with, involving their mother and father.

Front cover, DIY Couples, 2What was originally created in your relationship with your mother and father can be changed and improved in a relationship with a secure, attachment therapist.

And some people find that they can become more secure in their attachment styles, if they get involved in a romantic relationship with a person who has a secure attachment style.

Furthermore, some of the skills of being in a secure and happy relationship can be learned from books, and I very often send my couple clients extracted chapters from one or other of my two main books on couple relationships, as follows:

How to Have a Wonderful, Loving Relationship: Helpful insights for couples and lovers.***


How to Quickly Fix your Couple Relationship: A brief DIY handbook for serious lovers.***



That’s all for today.

Best wishes,


Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services


Email: Dr Jim Byrne.***



[1] An ‘affective state’ is a state of the body-brain-mind of an individual, in which there is physiological arousal and a felt sense of emotional attraction (‘positive affect’) or aversion (‘negative affect’).  For most practical purposes, among counsellors, the word affect may be used interchangeably with ‘feelings’ and ‘emotions’.


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