Counselor Corner: Attachment Theory with Susan Jedd
Stephanie Brilliant is a researcher focusing on the developmental processes of healthy brains. The long standing debate of nature versus nurture once again applies. Is a healthy, well developed brain the result of our genetics or our environment?
According to Stephanie– a lot of it boils down to environment. The input we receive from day one, the social patterns, attachments, and relationships we see and form are fundamental to the development of our brains. Stephanie’s findings are all discussed in her new documentary “BRANIOUS” which explores what is required for a thriving brain and shares important knowledge for parents, teachers, and anyone else who works with our youth. Her research plays into an important psychological model that is employed in counseling: Attachment Theory.
Attachment Theory explores how relationships are a fundamental component for developing and maintaining healthy brains throughout an individual’s life.
Our own Susan Jedd, an LCPC, who works full time as a Bozeman counselor for the nCenter specializes in Attachment Theory.
In between clients she was kind enough to sit for a short interview detailing the importance of attachment and how it helps to form healthy, well developed brains.
Interview With Susan Jedd, LCPC, Bozeman Counselor
KAT: What is Attachment Theory, and how do you use it in your work with clients?
SUSAN: We all have a basic drive to be close to and connect with the important people in our lives. This is the basis for Attachment Theory. We all need loving emotional connections in order to grow and function. Not just as babies but all through our lives we need to feel close to the important people in our lives. It’s a lifelong process. Relationships are meant to comfort us and make us feel safe.
In therapy, the counselor provides emotional safety in the relationship so that the client can explore what’s bothering them. Some things in life are too hard to face alone! We know that intuitively, but there’s a cultural pressure to be self-sufficient so we sometimes resist the need to ask for help. Paradoxically, we become more independent the more that need for connection is met.
Attachment is about relationship. We thrive when we are in a nurturing and secure relationship. In therapy it’s the relationship that provides the context for change.
KAT: What does healthy attachment look like? What are some things that develop and support healthy attachment?
SUSAN: Attachment is about dependence. That sounds strange because, again, in our culture we place great value on independence and self-sufficiency. But being able to depend on someone is very important to being our best self! The best attachment bond is one in which we become part of the relationship without losing our individuality. The more we have a healthy dependence on another person, the stronger we get as individuals because the bond nurtures us and gives us confidence in ourselves.
A healthy attachment makes us more of who we are, not less. We don’t lose ourselves when we depend on another person. Research indicates that the more secure the bond, the more we have a strong, positive sense of self.
No one is ever completely independent of others. We all need love.
KAT: Why do you believe attachment theory works?
SUSAN: Attachment is about feeling safe. It’s a survival instinct. We are not meant to handle everything in life alone. That connection we feel when we are closely connected to another person provides a buffer to the outside world. That close, secure bond protects us from feeling helpless in the face of life’s chaos.
We grow when we are in a loving relationship. Babies who don’t get emotional attention, but get everything else they need (like food, shelter) fail to thrive and will eventually die. That’s how important it is.
KAT: How does attachment affect us throughout our lives as individuals?
SUSAN: Attachment is a lifelong process. It used to be thought that attachment was just about baby bonding and as you got older you were expected to be independent and self-sufficient. We now know this is nonsense. Throughout our lives we need the comfort and safety that close emotional connections provide. It’s vital.
Additionally you can find the free trailer for Stephanie Brilliant’s documentary on Attachment Theory, BRAINIOUS at https://www.brainiousfilm.com/buy-the-film/
Photo: Susan Jedd, LCPC, and Therapy Dog Gus, photo by Kaitlin Helminski