Clinical Implications of Attachment Theory

Attachment theory is one of the most thoroughly reasoned and researched frameworks for understanding the formation, functioning, and quality of personal relationships across the lifespan. In our lecture, we will present a theoretical model of the activation and psychodynamics of the attachment behavioral system in adulthood and use it to characterize both normative and individual-difference aspects of couple relationships. Specifically, we will review adult attachment research and offer integrative ideas concerning
(a) the use of a close relationship partner as an attachment figure,
(b) the emotion- and behavior-regulatory strategies of hyperactivation and deactivation and their implications for individual differences in the quality of close relationships,
(c) the interplay between partners’ attachment and caregiving behavioral systems in close relationships, and
(d) the joint operation of these systems in both members of a relationship, which create different patterns of relatedness.
Finally, we will apply the theory and the research it has generated to individual and couple counseling or therapy.


  • To discuss the clinical implications of attachment theory and research for individual psychotherapy and couple therapy.
  • To discuss the role of the therapist as a secure base
  • To discuss ways of approaching clients’ relational behaviors and the internal working models of self and others that affect these behaviors.
  • To discuss the roles of the working alliance, transference, and counter-transference in the process of therapeutic change.