How to Rebuild Secure Attachment After Trauma

When a person experiences trauma, there’s one key factor that can play an important role in whether or not PTSD symptoms develop – and that’s secure attachment.

But what happens when someone has never had a connection to a secure attachment figure?? How can we help our client build the feelings of safety that are so vital to healing from trauma?

In the video clip below, Pat Ogden, PhD and Ruth Lanius, MD, PhD highlight the importance of repairing attachment. Ruth also offers a useful strategy that can help clients rebuild secure attachment.

Take a look – it’s about 4 minutes.

You can hear more from Ruth and Pat this Wednesday, together with Bessel van der Kolk, MD; Dan Siegel, MD; and Allan Schore, PhD. They’ll be my guests in this week’s free broadcast of the all-new Treating Trauma Master Series.

We’ll be focusing on The Neurobiology of Attachment.

It’s free to watch at the time of broadcast; you just have to sign up.

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47 Comments

  1. Nora says:

    Thakyou so much for all of your work and generous sharing. To answer your question of what do I use, with my community, for secure attachment: songwriting and singing. First we become present with basic breathing exercises, then graduate to vocal exercises, then we harmonize together (people are so surprised how naturally this happens)

    then, for those who feel trusting enough, which teens and convicts usually do, we add lyrics about our traumatic experience ‘story’. Singing gets us present vibration wise (to the frontal corex) and then storytelling detaches us from re-experiencing trauma, so that we can ‘witness’ it. Also, many brain studies have shown that singing lights up the brain in a way that supposedly no other activity has been shown to do!

    If you’d ever like to collaborate on brain studies and the positive, healing affects of singing, please let me know. I am eager to offer my time and knowledge, free of service. It’s my spiritual path and my mentor says I’m ready to branch out with other skilled professionals…

  2. Unattached says:

    How do you find a therapist who specializes in helping with attachment issues near You? I can’t find anyone…

  3. Jenny Dickson says:

    I have a lovely cat I call my therapy cat – she is just wonderful at helping traumatised clients regulate. She just seems to know when to turn up and provide the warm, soft, purring presence on the lap. The clients feel welcomed, loved and special.

  4. Maryann Gauci says:

    I have an elderly client who was with his wife at a nursing home and brought their dog Fluffy until the nursing home decided that Fluffy had to leave. My client now lives with Fluffy in his house which to his dismay he found had been emptied of beloved furniture by his children when he was in the nursing home. He is planning to move to a retirement village where Fluffy is welcome. My client’s family often encourage him to get rid of Fluffy. This client is so attached to his dog that not living with him would be detrimental to my client’s mental health. Fluffy attends his sessions with him and is an integral part of the therapy.

  5. Debbie Davis says:

    Yes, I have incorporated animals in my work with very traumatized people…either their own or one of my own pets as I have two dogs and a very astute cat that ‘knows’ when she is needed in the office.

    Animals add a very rich dimension to our work. They are great for teaching clients how to respect an animals friend’s feelings as well.

  6. doris says:

    Thank you for this! Because I study and work with “attachment resistant” clients who can’t trust another person (any other person really) anymore, I recognize the important role the Ego-Soul-Axis plays in healing trauma. The way I treat trauma integrates attachment theory and Soulful Relating and is, therefore, focused on helping clients cultivate an attachment bond between their body-self (Ego) and their Soul-Self (Real Self). I found, when this Ego-Soul-Connection is felt, the body-self feels supported and can let go of control. This makes processing and soulful integration of traumatic experiences possible. With clients who struggle with attachment resistance AND treatment resistant depression and anxiety, I work with a medical team and we combine ketamine infusions and soul attachment work. It’s a way to reach the self-part that lost faith in people and so maybe it could also reach the place described by Carollyne, “just waiting to die.” Even when just one heart gives up on humanity, can we survive? I don’t really know the answer to this question but know that we must keep searching for ways to reach that place! It’s why I felt relief that Lynda acknowledged in her reply “the courage it took to share it so honestly.” One person experiencing and expressing honestly “just waiting to die” and another person listening and responding without pretense makes me wonder if maybe we’re actually tracking and reaching each other’s dead places inside. Thank you all for making this conversation possible!

  7. Carollyne says:

    I’m just waiting to die. 71 years old mother died when I was 2 years old Father when I was 4 years old Aunt (fathers sister) died when I was 5 years old Raised by her husband who was a pedophile Sexually molested by several people in the neighborhood no safe attachment that I can remember as a child no safe trusting attachments for my whole life no therapy no incest survivor group nothing worked as I said just waiting to die

    • Christine says:

      Let me tell you my story. And please. you may use my Dad’s word just like I did. I found him so helpful. I hope you will too. Today I call myself a Trauma Angel… otherwise known as an Interventionist.
      When I was 4, I was raped by my Uncle. My mother blamed me for it happening! Then she told me she just didn’t love me anymore. “WHY?” I screamed. She said, “you know”. But I didn’t. My 4-year-old mind couldn’t begin to comprehend what had happened and blocked it all out. However, as my mother told me that, I immediately began my search for Truth… about anything. (And I still search today.) Mom made me into her personal whipping girl the rest of my life. She also made me into a caretaker at that age, because she’d hit me for reasons I couldn’t figure out at all. But I found that by taking care of her personal needs my life would go far smoother. Consequently, I never had a childhood.
      At 4, I was the youngest child. My elder brother and sister learned how to act through Mom. And they all used her negative ways of dealing with me. And I never saw one of them get swatted, slapped or sometimes spanked hard like I did. My sister turned me in once and laughed at me while I got the hardest spanking of my lifetime. My brother would knuckle-punch my puny arms leaving bruises on them. I became a nervous wreck as a small child.
      My father had been raised in a foster home and had known much stress as a child. He knew his wife was out to get me, yet, he couldn’t be there for me during the day. So, at night he’d tuck me in bed, read to me, and rub my back with no sexual undertones in it at all. It was just soothing. Then he asked me if I didn’t tell myself I was alright? I said sure, but who believes me? Even when I tell mommy I love her she doesn’t believe it. No one ever believes anything I say.
      My dad said, “God does! In fact, he’s my best friend. He knows so much more than I do about everything that happens around us that I feel I can believe in his words to me. And really, he doesn’t really speak words, he just gives me intuitions and gut feelings about how to deal.”
      I looked at him blankly because I was maybe 5 or 6 years old at this time. “Yeah but, who is God? Is he that guy we have to say Our Father Who art in Heaven to all the time in church? Do I have to say it too whenever I want to talk to him?” I asked. “Yes and no, he laughed. Yes, you’ve learned about God in church. But no, you can forget religion when you think of Him as your personal Friend. God is here for each and every one of us on this earth. And you don’t even have to say real words to Him, ’cause he can read your thoughts.” I looked scared then! You have no idea the bad thoughts a little girl can carry in her head, especially about an abusive mother!

      Dad went on to say that his God-Friend is just a whole lot of love inside of you. That when someone’s done or told him something horrible, his God just loves my dad, to help him get over any bad reaction he might have. He told me that God had taught him to “walk a mile” in their “moccasins” and to handle this problem with the same love that God had shown him how to have.
      My Dad talked to me about turning everything bad that happened to me into something positive to learn from. He told me that with every bad thought I had about my mommy, I could use that very same energy to grow with to make myself into an even better person. Especially better than she was!
      However, as I went out into life as a college student, having gotten no advice or preparation from my mom, rape followed me. By the time I turned 18, I’d been raped 5 independent times. (And I never set foot in a Sorority or a Fraternity, never drank or did drugs. I was into Transcendental Meditation then!)
      When I wanted to go back to my first college where I felt so much safer, I was kidnapped and taken to Las Vegas to be sold as a prostitute! I thought my days were over. But I used my dad’s teachings, plus my own intelligence, and I escaped without having been touched by anyone. However, upon getting back home, I completely freaked out. I was taken to the infirmary and given something that made me sleep for four days and four nights solid!
      It was 1970. I went to three different psychologists, all males, and got no help at all. I tried talking to my girlfriends, but they either yelled at me for being so stupid (I already felt stupid enough, thank you very much) or they just dumped me. So, I shut up. I also became a confirmed loaner in life.
      At the age of 37, I was raped one last time by my CEO. The only person over him was the billionaire who owned the company. I ran. And in fact, I ran into a rape crisis hotline. There I not only helped other women, there I could TALK about having been raped and it was appreciated! This work transformed me.
      Today I’m 66 years old and can say only that it was a difficult life. Yet my mother made me strong and my father made me wise. I have had two therapists much later in my life, who did help me enormously. One was 97 when I went to her. She had studied with Karl Jung himself(!) and helped me hugely. Yet I’ve also been married four times and am today, single again. Marriage will probably not work for me ever. Yet, never say never. At least I have great friendships with both sexes. And every day, I am grateful for what I do have! And if you have no gratitude, make up an attitude of gratitude to carry you onward.
      Now I’ve learned EFT tapping, meditation techniques, breathing exercises, brain science techniques, exercise daily, plus healthy self-love practices just to keep myself calm in all the storms of life. I’ve also tended lots of plants and animals, anything living, my entire adult life. They return the love given them, never talk back, and tending them keeps me out of my head.
      I’m going “live” online soon with my new business EMPOWERMENT! Dealing with Corporate Abuse, and my website Grace After Rape. Eventually, I will cover all ages, state, races, cultures, and jobs where people deal with rape, sexual abuse, and human trafficking. It’s everywhere! I do hope to contribute and change the world’s attitudes of silence about these issues in a book I’m now writing. Just like in Hollywood, we all have to contribute to this change. And I do believe it will be women worldwide who get this job accomplished!
      Why don’t you lead the way where you live? You won’t believe what it will do for YOU!

    • Lynda says:

      I hear your pain and acknowledge the courage it took to share it so honestly. There is no way I could ever truly understand what the impact of your early losses and betrayal have had in your life. Just know that I am inspired by the strength and fortitude you have demonstrate to endure through the pain to reach 71 years of age.

  8. Carollyne says:

    I never had a safe attachment as a child that I can remember my parents died My mother when I was 2 years old My father when I was 4 years My aunt ( my fathers sister) when I was 5 years old. Raised by her husband who was a pedophile I’m now 71 years old unable to trust anyone for my whole life And I say to hell with it No therapist could help me no incest survivors could help me. I’m just waiting to die.

    • Celia says:

      I’m so sorry Carolyne – to hear your sorrow and hopelessness. Have you ever had a pet? Would you consider a dog? Or if not a dog – a cat? A pet can bring great comfort – and can lead to more…..

  9. Kim Isaacs says:

    I have signed up for the free listening but have not received any link to this… was expecting to hear it this morning. Please advise

    regards,

    Kim Isaacs

  10. darlene says:

    Very interesting. The power of our animals is underestimated. Thank you.

  11. Iris Forsman says:

    Thanks for this video clip about attachment issues which so easily is forgotten in everyday clinical practise. It brings to my memory a middle aged female patient whose deep and hopeless depression many years resisted all treatment efforts. She had none so ever positive images in her mind about herself. And she could not trust to any person. Until..the only positive experience she remembered having ever been in her life was her youth with horses.. And so we went together to stables.Took a private lesson for us two, afterwards sharing the experiences connected to all that. And after that she went to have more riding as therapy. I still remember the first time seeing her smiling on the horseback; finding a connection with that part of herself who could experience positive feelings. Of course this was just the beginning of a long journey of recovery; healing old wounds and rebuilding her present self/life and the future, that had not existed in her mind. In therapy an important aid was also Emdr and sensomotor techniques applied. But in her case without horses they were useless.
    Needless to say that I am a great admirer of those furry therapist collegues.

  12. melody says:

    I was not able to sign up for the free broadcast on secure attachment as the space where my name should go, would not receive the information. It did receive my email and phone information. I would like to register for this free broadcast. Can you help , please.

    • Yesim Sokmen says:

      Hi Melody. Sometimes it is the internet browser. Maybe try another browser? I used Explorer, it worked.

  13. Kathy Handel says:

    Sorry but I do not have a Facebook page, nor will I have one.

  14. Theresa says:

    I work with kids in the foster care system, many of whom have not had positive attachment relationships and often traumatic ones. I work to help them establish a primary attachment relationship with them-self, that is, to support self-awareness and liking themselves. As an art therapist, I provide them with choices in an environment of safety and invitation, and reflect back to them what I observe, helping them describe sensory experiences with the art materials. I affirm their choices and help them expand their sense of confidence. I validate their expression and encourage them to identify and accept their feelings. I promote self-reflection and self-love. Generosity and humour help create shared moments that build self-esteem. I treat them and their creativity as treasure that is much needed in this world. I think this all promotes the ability for them to know and like themselves, feel worthy and desirable to be in relationship with. I hope this helps prepare the ground for healthy attachment.

    • Susan says:

      Great strategy, Theresa. I do this but with adults!!

  15. The Pyat says:

    A recent video appeared, all filmed from a police officer’s glasses as he got shot. What strikes me profoundly throughout is a bystander named Jay Tompkins, who shows up at the officer’s side. I doubt Tompkins had an inkling of professional training on how to handle such a situation, physically or psychologically. I don’t even know if he graduated high school. Yet, watch all that he provides to the traumatized officer: Concern; Reassurance; Comfort; Validation; Follow-up; Communication; Keeping calm, himself; Respect; Providing facts; Cooperation; Presence; Listening; More reassurance; Consistency; Asking concerned questions about feelings; Understanding; Building a community of support: calling on others with different expertise to help; Prioritizing through the crisis “Just concentrate on breathing”; Updating traumatized person on status of help; Protecting traumatized person to keep them calm; calming loved ones “Don’t upset him.”; More reassurance.
    Officer Quincy Smith could attach to this person who stepped into this angel-like role, and therefore he could concentrate solely on surviving. And he did survive. Even though Jay Tompkins hasn’t got any idea how to do CPR, he might have saved this officer’s life and certainly helped him on his way to recovering from such a traumatic event. He gave what was needed. (Warning: it’s graphic) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6mds5tDqDw

  16. Thank you.

  17. jo burleson says:

    I am a Registered Play Therapist with a registered therapy dog. Her name is Ayni which is a Quecha Indian term from Peru that is about reciprocity. They have a full page define the term, but the meat of the meaning is reciprocity for total trust and connection for health and healing”.A three year old girl, sexually abused, put her face in Ayni’s and said, “I need to tell you what you did to me!” My little dog whimpered and that was my cue to continue with the therapeutic moment. Ayni’s energy goes up when a chid enters our play room and healing occurs.

  18. Marcia says:

    I loved my cat over the years, but now I cannot have a pet as my family have allergies when they come for a visit, so need to find alternative sources of self soothing.

    I find when I work with youth, it helps me pass on survivor skills to them. It is nice to help them not follow harmful footsteps of those before them. Parents just are not taught how to parent. Loved doing parenting groups all these years and so wish I had had more of this information then. Now I help families learn these attachment issues, rebuilding not only the child’s need for attachment but also help the parent get a glimpse of their own faulty attachment, which is really where it came from.

    Stopping multigenerational transmission of this poor attachment is paramount for our society to heal. Someone below suggested that the helpers called to the hospital also had attachment issues and this is almost always true, but with education, especially in a crisis situation the others usually understand on some level. Follow up is imperative but a plan is set upon discharge to continue the rebuilding of the attachment.

    It is so hard to work with an individual unless those around them are not on the same page to want healing for themselves. This can be a problem but so worth it. Doing groups and family meetings when a client is hosptialized can be very helpful and provide the patient a host of solutions where everyone is collaborating. You cannot do this if the facility or insurance company is not hosting this kind of healing.

    We have a society that has been so avoidant about speaking ones mind. How you do it, is important. Maybe this internet phenomenon has helped this, but now we need to do it face to face. Put the phones down and make eye contact, which I find is part of the answer when dealing with a person in crisis, thanks to the work by Porges and those nerve endings in our eyes.

  19. Marcia says:

    Sometimes, it is hard to bring the family on board after a traums, when the hosptial is trying hard to assure their privacy. As a DMHP in the past, I found it quite helpful to sometimes, just allow them to make a phone call to someone they trust or bring the person to the hospital when the patient has spoke of the calm a certain person has been for them. Families often wait around in a room, not realizing they might be able to provide that calm. It just takes a professional to allow the family to help thier loved one. The loved one is in fear as well. Soliciting a parent or family member if they are not part of the crisis, coordinate that desire to help and facilitate it. People around the victim often are in fear as to how to help. That was always my favorite role as a DMHP. With a watchful eye, a lot can be accomplished as to how to help the victim move forward and possibly mending attachment. They say that crises can often bring families together. I have seen that happen time and time again.

    As for attachment, I have learned that I never had it through childhood due to parents which made other abuse therafter keep me wired in the sympatheric nervous system. Now after so much attack on my own body I now realize it did help me help others almost instinctively, but now I have to remind clients and myself that self focus is imperative. We need to speak up kindly to those toxic people who are all around us, knowing they are stuck somewhere, too.

  20. Nancy Weltessen says:

    Hi , I am not a therapist but a client who also happens to be a teacher. Being liked can be a reason for a child to grows confident in their socialization process. A young student of mine, young female, would cry for hours when her mother wants to go home and leave her in the classrooom. The cries goes on until a male teacher comes in to take turn to teach. She then has the best behavior ever since. How thankful the class , including myself, to see their contentment. I don’t know the answer specifically to the recovery since attachment comes in many flavors. But this is my hunch.

  21. Robert Barram, Ph.D. says:

    One male client who is so trumatized, when we work at imagining that we would be together in a place of usual fear we get loud, egoistical, very outgoing. He feels it.

  22. I found out as a child that having no secure attachment after being sexually abused by my father, grandfather, and a childhood friend was devastating. My family had a pet cat as I was a preteen and I did not understand the need for a reciprocal relationship even with pets. Having an adult friend of the same sex that was safe and that provided unconditional positive regard and acceptance was crucial in my 30’s. I have been married four times and each relationship became progressively more destructive until I finally found a therapist and support group that provided a secure attachment. It was quite revealing when I first understood what it meant to be loved and that I truly loved my life and myself.
    As a mental health professional, I have stayed in therapy myself and closely monitored my relationships. I wish I had known what I know now more than twenty years ago. With clients’ I’ve worked with I’ve found group work in the right environment conducive to building healthy attachments over time. My experience in working with senior adults that have been traumatized by a stroke, a death, or debilitating health conditions has shown great benefit from group sessions two to three times a week with both an educational and an experiential component. Great strides were made in their mood, communication skills, sociability, and cognitive functioning.

  23. When I was abused as a child there were no attachment figures. The hugs I got from a pet cat helped while I was an adolescent. My first real attachment as an adult was with a close female friend that I trusted. When I discovered the feeling of unconditional love and acceptance it made a profound difference. As an adult now and also a mental health professional, I value adult friends, family, and opportunities to serve the elderly. They are always needing hugs. While working with senior adults at Vantage Point in Fayetteville, Arkansas, I witnessed the healing power of safe touches and warm secure relationships. Adults that had suffered from traumatic experiences, including strokes, loss of a life-long partner, and falls, needed a secure attachment and strong support system.

  24. Srishti says:

    I have not had the family immediately after trauma as I see them late in life. However I like to meet with Patient’s family after the first session . Some are reluctant but others will bring their parents , sibs or spouse.
    It is helpful for both patient and the therapist
    Animals are great comfort e.g. Help secrete pita in and oxytocin.
    Thank you

  25. I would like to let you know that 40 years ago,in the early seventies, I was a Pediatric nurse, now also a trauma psychologist. I felt that hospitalization, surgery and procedures were potentially traumatic. I started a preparation program for children undergoing cardiac cath in which children could communicate their fears through play. We provided a consistent person to follow them to the cath lab and then debrief afterwards. In the research, we found that individualized approach plus consistent person helped in preventing trauma and had better outcomes. This was pretty innovative at the time, now is part of treatment at UCSF where this study was originally done. I loved doing this work. I was one of the best experiences I have had in my long professional life of 50 years now. So happy to share. I am enjoying everyone’s comment here.

  26. Sarah Wells says:

    The transmission of warm, attuned listening is invaluable. It has both helped my healing process and created the stability I offer to my clients. Thank you for this thought provoking and useful series of videos.

    Sincerely,
    Sarah Wells LCSW
    http://www.sarahwellslcsw.com
    The Mindful Healing Project

  27. You speak of “rebuilding secure attachment” but for some this is not REbuilding, but the initial construction leading to feelings of secure attachment. This is especially problematic when those who SHOULD have the first line of support were, sadly, the chief betrayers of the child’s trust. I have several such patients, and I have found, as mentioned in this video, that an animal can be extremely helpful. I describe this to patients as a “spirit animal”, recalling Native American beliefs and tradition. Thank you for sharing this information.

  28. Jeanette says:

    I hope the psychiatrist mentioned in the clip who called family members of traumatized people to the hospital, first cleared with them that these were not people who had also prior traumatized them.

    I always try to find out what kind(s) of art form(s) (as observer or active participant) and what forms of nature are compelling to the people I see. I listen closely to “I used to….” This is a window into the part of them that is key to their healing. I encourage those who aren’t currently engaged or have stopped to find a way to connect. For example if someone tells me they love the ocean but can’t leave their home, I encourage them to start by focusing on the water they normally come in contact with in their home, and finding images of oceans on the internet. Or if they used to play an instrument long ago, I ask who are their favorite musicians and encourage them to listen to them on youtube or other media. For people who don’t have or use internet, the library is a great resource for books, cd’s and vinyl. Even though my office is small, I try to give options on whether they want to sit or lie down. I keep a yoga mat on hand for the latter and it has been much appreciated by those who need to have their spine on the ground. Helping people relax physically and honoring their intrinsic alignments goes a long way.

  29. sharon priest says:

    I agree for some people a pet /animal can create an attachment/love relationship. Many of my clients who have experienced sexual abuse or have been the emotional care giver for an emotionally absent parent growing up, become quite enraged at having yet again created a situation where they have to “look after” something/one. Sometimes I get them to experience a favorite teacher, or even encourage some transfer by using their commitment to therapy as a caring experience.

  30. Lynda says:

    Thank you so much for the incredible generosity of everyone involved to share these programs freely. My personal experience with PTSD has been that too few professionals knew how to really help, partly because of a lack of knowledge when they did their training. It was also problematic to even have access to a therapist long enough to establish a sense of a ‘secure’ attachment. Nowadays, it is difficult to even gain access to a therapist other than to have prescriptions renewed. It wasn’t until I became involved with The Virtues Project that I was able to form long term relationships with some individuals dedicated to working together to develop and spread the skills to provide safe spaces for social interaction. Certainly, everything I have seen in your videos so far has resonated with me personally as strategies I have gathered from my personal ongoing study and research and incorporated into my own healing over the years. Sharing openly like you are doing is an awesome service that can help humanity not only heal from but also minimize the effects of trauma and most importantly prevent some of the common sources of unnecessary trauma in interpersonal relationship behaviours.

  31. Vera Smith says:

    Ruth, your conversations about trauma, and the comments and suggestions from other therapists are so helpful. So thank you for the work you offer.

  32. Powerful few minutes of sharing – we know that networks of support are key to the response to trauma and it becomes understandable that even in the most devastating of natural disasters people gather in communities of collective loss and collective support. The recognition of the lack of attachment in the aftermath of sexual abuse when a child or adult must keep it secret is the secondary trauma is an important contribution -Thanks Suzanne

  33. To extend my time with a particular client I suggested using email (one way: they write, I receive) about whatever emotions are rising in that moment. I told the client I would scan the text but not pay it much attention (unless I detected of course some sense of harm to self or others). What I would do is allow the emotion its expression without judgement.
    In session we sometimes refer to the texts which are repetitive in nature. As the client expresses these neural pathways in a safe way, through writing, they find a sense of empowerment regarding that emotion. It has proved a very useful addition to our time between sessions.
    Dr. Pennebaker of course pioneered using writing as a tool for rebuilding positive neural pathways.

  34. Jane Dally says:

    I tap into the natural world as a source of safety, attachment and healing for clients. This can be done simply at first by having a view of the natural world through a window in the therapist’s office, or natural sounds present in the therapy environment, such as a water fountain, etc. I later give clients the choice of doing sessions inside or outside. They are often surprised with the freedom to choose (which installs a sense that at least one human – me – is interested and willing to allow them choice, and then listen to, follow and support that choice). The first connections with nature may be simple – a walk around the block or sitting on a bench in a green area. While we talk, I casually bring the client’s attention to features and beauty in the natural world around us, and later draw their attention to the effects that being outdoors has on their body, mind and emotions. These practices are simple and foundational to “Nature Therapy”, and can expand to more formal exercises in the natural world, and even days-long trips in the outdoors with a therapist. The sense of safety, belonging and connection that can be facilitated in these ways within severely traumatized individuals can be profound.

  35. Gary Whited says:

    I have learned from having warm and attuned listeners in the course of my own therapy journey that if I can be present and listen in a way that reads as safe and open to my client, they can begin to find their own path to listening to themselves, to their traumatized parts and the protectors of those parts, and ultimately to listen to their own listening. Sometimes this involves identifying and finding other beings in their lives with whom they experience safe attachment. This might be a dog or cat, for some it’s a horse, and for some it’s a tree or a place in the woods, or a place in their house where they feel secure and held by some presence of energy that reads to them and their parts as safe holding and touch of the right kind. At the core of this experience is helping the person take in the listening of “other,” whoever that is, in such a way that, over time, they begin to listen to themselves accessing a sense of holding within that becomes a resource to their ongoing process of healing.

  36. I have been available as a therapist to a couple people intermittently in their adult lives for over 20 years like safe surrogate family. I also encourage them to recreate a safe family of friends I have seen one resourceful client attach to her dogs and make dog kennel care her business for income to reduce the interaction with people in her life. Some clients return to me for therapy because of my non-judgemental approach that validates them as a good person, who does not blame them for their victimization, and sees their personal strengths.

  37. Barbara says:

    I work with Inuit and Indigenous clients using ehealth – the remote communities are very isolated. Hand and finger games are a strong cultural tradition so we “play” during the sessions – even if their experience so far has not had secure attachment, there are memories of community events full of laughing and joy to be drawn from. The games are an infinite variety of alternate tapping. During the session, it’s like the bass line, and disregulation then involves laughing at the lost rhythm, modeling the repair of trust as per Erickson. I completed the certificate in Traumatic Stress Studies this past year

    • Emily Jernberg says:

      Barbara, I’m so interested in how you do this. If I’m understanding right, you play hand and finger games with them while you’re on the phone or using video conferencing? I can imagine the power of play and rhythm. It reminds me of Theraplay. I’d love any ideas on how to do it remotely.

  38. I make sure my office is filled with options that help establish safety and comfort. I have a 30 lbs weighted blanket, himalayan sea salt globe that they can place their feet on and one they can hold while warmed with a light, diffusing essential oils, low/lamp lighting, tactile pulsers, gum and mints to facilitate calm and open breathing. I also have a book with photos of unlikely friendships between animals for their perusal to discover a safe and nurturing image for the attachment EMDR process. I remind them that while we’re doing EMDR they have the right to stop doing it at any point, without reason. And I tell them that the entire theme of my work is to give them an experience where they have choice and control. I find in trauma work that I am as much establishing a hospitable, dignifying, and safe environment, as I am clinically knowledgeable and helpful.

  39. Bea Schild says:

    Being reliable and worth the trust, that is set in me. Earning it, by being patient, waiting for the right time for the client to say or do something (unless there are time limits set from outside). Make offers and promises that can be kept etc. Make contracts all the way: from this moment to the entire treatment: both know, both agree…

  40. David Mensink says:

    Sadly for some clients, the only human attachment figure in their lives is their therapist. On the positive side, I have seen the healthy relationship with a therapist help clients to develop healthy relationships with others but it isn’t easy work.

  41. Doug says:

    As a social worker, always turning up., never cancelling without an apology. Never minding if the client cancelled with or without notice, or just didn’t answer the door. Always treating client as an equal. Always being interested in what the client had to say.

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