Courses

Attachment Theory: An Embodied Approach

About the Course

Our attachment system is laid down early in life, and is a combination of our genetic inheritance and our response to our perception and experience of our environment.  We experience attachment ruptures as serious threats to our survival, and create strategies to deal with this based on our unique nervous systems.  

These strategies rely on the functioning of our autonomic nervous system.  The knowledge of polyvagal theory can help us to understand and work with our own and our clients nervous systems. 

This course will aid mental health practitioners and other related healing disciplines to recognize attachment dynamics and address them in therapeutic settings such as psychotherapy.

This module explores the attachment system which is activated when we experience relational distress, activating strategies developed in relation to the environment and relationships we were raised in.
Polyvagal theory outlines a hierarchy of response to threats, from those least costly in terms of survival energy to those most costly. This understanding of the nervous system underpins many attachment strategies.
Insecure attachment can come in the form of hyperactivating strategies, which rely on sympathetic dominance, or mobilizing to secure attachments. In this module, we’ll examine anxious/preoccupied strategies, how to understand them, and how to begin to be with the impact of this strategy.
Insecure attachment can come in the form of hypoactivating strategies, which rely on parasympathetic dominance, or withdraw/freeze/collapse to secure attachments. In this module, we’ll delve into avoidance/dismissive strategies, how to understand them, and how to begin to be with the impact of this strategy.
This module looks at how trauma and terrifying or terrorizing early environments can contribute to disorganized or fearful avoidant attachment strategies which have a dominant insecure strategy or mixed state strategies.
Tend and Befriend studies suggest Appease as a further strategy that may have roots in the social engagement system. This is based in co-regulatory strategies to increase perceptions of safety, or neuroception.

Students who take this course will:

  • Describe the relationship between the attachment system and the threat response system
  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of the Polyvagal theory and the implications of the Polyvagal theory on attachment strategies
  • Compare secure vs. insecure adaptive strategies and hyperactivating vs. hypoactivating strategies
  • Explain the mixed states of the autonomic nervous system 
  • Compare the relationship between sympathetic dominance and anxious/preoccupied strategies and parasympathetic dominance and avoidant/dismissive strategies
  • Describe disorganized and fearful avoidance attachment strategies
  • Explain Tend and Befriend research
  • Describe the Social engagement system and explain the relationship between the social engagement system and co-regulation

About Maureen Gallagher

Dr. Maureen Gallagher is a Licensed Psychologist (NY, NJ), Somatic Experiencing Practitioner and Faculty Member, Inner Relationship Focusing Trainer, Emotionally Focused Therapist and Supervisor and a Relational Psychoanalyst. Her work and teaching are dedicated to the embodiment of psychotherapy and related healing disciplines, in which she integrates somatic awareness and the use of somatic intervention along with adult attachment work and a relational focus. She brings a broad range of experience and training to this endeavor, including Certifications in Somatic Experiencing, Inner Relationship Focusing, Relational Psychoanalysis, Emotionally Focused Therapy, Integral Somatic Psychology, SE Touch skills training and Biodynamic Cranial Sacral Therapy. Her clinical work integrates focusing, somatic experiencing, relational psychoanalysis and experiential and process oriented models of attachment theory. She has maintained a private practice for over 20 years. She is the founder of Embodying Psychotherapy.

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Unlimited Membership

  • Access to this course
  • Member Only Content
    Unlimited access to premium articles, special podcast series, and other member only content.
  • EPTV Streaming Video Service
    Access to EPTV Original Series and our video library of over 250+ hours of lectures, talks and workshops.
  • Wisdom School Courses
    Access to 60+ on-demand courses plus two new courses every month.