Adult Attachment in Romantic Relationships: Overcoming the Fear of Love
Lisa Firestone, PhD, instructor
Both clinicians and researchers have noted the importance of close interpersonal relationships for the development of personality, character, and overall well-being. Attachment patterns formed early in life influence our relationships throughout our lives, most particularly our romantic relationships.
What prevents most people from being able to sustain romantic, meaningful relationships that satisfy their needs and desires? Why do people often feel compelled to punish those closest to them? What are the factors that determine whether partners will end up experiencing love and fulfillment in their relationship or suffering pain and distress? This workshop helps answer these questions by providing participants with a theoretical model that integrates psychodynamic, existential, and family systems frameworks in a manner that can increase clinicians’ understanding of and ability to assist individuals in developing and maintaining intimacy in their relationships.
The internal defenses individuals bring to the relationship are often at the root of the deepest conflict or distress between couples, regardless of external forces. Gottman’s research on the predictors of the longevity of a relationship focuses on four key behaviors which lead to relationship failure. The four behaviors are: being critical, contemptuous, dismissive, and using stone walling in the relationship. Often these styles of relating stem from the influence of early childhood experiences and the (insecure) attachment patterns, or defensive adaptations each partner in the relationship developed to cope with his or her early interpersonal environment. The ways each partner learned to cope, that were adaptive to their early environment but that are no longer appropriate, influence their relationships from partner selection to provoking their partner to treat them in a manner similar to how they were treated by their early caretakers.
Unlike many psychoanalytic theories, attachment theory has been vigorously researched during the past 35 years. Researchers have identified some notable (and measurable) patterns of attachment: secure, anxious, and avoidant. There is now good evidence concerning the mental and neural processes underlying these patterns, (internal working models), the relation of the patterns to particular forms of psychopathology and unhappiness, and the potential to intervene to increase a person’s basic sense of security and the success of his or her close relationships with others.
Workshop participants will learn how to help couples challenge defensive behaviors, remnants of their attachment patterns that interfere with closeness and intimacy. Elements of emotion focused therapy, which has been used to address adult attachment issues as they manifest in adult romantic relationships, will be integrated into the workshop.
Specific learning objectives:
- Recognize how methods or defenses formed to deal with pain and anxiety in childhood later come to limit people as adults in their ability to develop and sustain secure, fulfilling attachments.
- Summarize how the concept of the fantasy bond, an imaginary connection formed between partners, relieves anxiety yet interferes with real closeness in relationships.
- Apply the techniques of Voice Therapy to help partners identify and challenge negative thoughts toward themselves and their partner.
- Assess couple dynamics through the use of objective instruments and use this information to inform treatment planning.
Program Code: AAR6
6 CE Credits MFT
Location: William James College, Newton
Lisa Firestone, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and Director of Research and Education at The Glendon Association. She is involved in clinical training and research on suicide and violence, resulting in the development of the Firestone Assessment of Self-destructive Thoughts (FAST), the (FASI) and the Firestone Assessment of Violent Thoughts (FAVT), published by PAR Publications. She is co-author of The Self under Siege, Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice, Creating a Life of Meaning and Compassion and Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships. Dr. Firestone is a highly regarded workshop facilitator in the topics of suicide, violence and family relations.