IAN ANNUAL REPORT 2014-2015
We have continued to have a stimulating programme of seminars this year and, with the help of EC member Deborah Rodriguez, the IAN has now set up a blog to publicise the ideas expressed in these seminars and to stimulate debate surrounding their implications for practice and policy. There are also accounts on the IAN website. Starting in February Jean Knox presented a talk entitled “How dreams heal: some thoughts on the neuroscience of dreaming and its contribution to overcoming dissociated states of mind”. Distinguishing two types of dissociation – primary which involves hyper-arousal and secondary which involves hypo-arousal, a shut-down of the limbic system - she suggested dreaming could be one process by which trauma could be healed and emotionally worked through. Talking us carefully through different parts of the brain involved in arousal and affect regulation, particularly the role of the default network, she made a powerful case for the role of imaginative processes, including fantasy and dreaming, in overcoming dissociation through a gradual integrative process of meaning which gives a sense of agency and identity to the self.
In April Geraldine Thomas introduced us to Filial Therapy, a form of play therapy that involved training, and then supervising, the parents themselves to “carry out” the therapy of their child under the watchful eye of the professional therapist. The rationale for developing a structure of this type was based on what Attachment Theory might see as the potential for something to go wrong when the child has to attach to a new figure who then disappears at the end of therapy. Part of the process of involving the parents is helping them to understand needs, both of their own and of their child, and to see when there may be conflict between these. Geraldine's video of a widowed father and his child was a powerful illustration of how this procedure can work.
In June, Javier Sempere and Claudio Fuenzalida (IAN Ibero American) came from Spain to talk about Interfamily Therapy. This is basically a large-group process, combining principles of both group analysis and family therapy. They carefully outlined the steps by which the families are inducted into the procedure and showed many fascinating videos of the groups sessions, with excellent translations from the original Spanish. What was especially interesting about this as a process was how quickly one family was enabled to make insightful remarks about its own dynamics by witnessing quite brief interchanges within another family.
In September, Roz Carroll talked to us about “Negotiating Proximity in a Therapeutic Context “. The message was all the more powerful because she involved 22 of us audience behaviourally in what she called the practice of “sociometry”, by which we would move into varying proximities within different groups, for example of those who came to the seminar by tube, by car, by bike. Connection was beginning as people looked around to see who was with them. From connection we moved to discuss and understand empathy, attunement and mentalisation. In our last exercise we paired off and sat opposite our partner. We were to maintain eye contact as much as was comfortable and not to speak, with our hands resting on our thighs, palms facing up. After some time, we were told to raise our hands in front of our chests, later to reach out towards our partner, and finish by raising our forefinger to our partner - quiet unusual experiences. The focus was on connection/ attachment throughout.
In November Sue Chantrell talked about how psychotherapy might help a child to develop positive internal representations of self & carer, and how this could this put him in a better position to make a new attachment to adoptive parents. She gave a thorough introduction to the topic in terms of attachment theory and went on to describe her doctoral thesis which involved research on a 4-year old boy she called Alfie Alfie was in intensive, three times weekly psychoanalytic psychotherapy while in foster care from age 5 and leading up to his later adoption at age 6, and then once weekly for a term after placement with his adoptive parents. She ingeniously devised measures which could be used quantitatively in a single case study design. These measures concerned his activities during his psychotherapy, for example frequency of actions and play scenarios. By examining a sample of sessions over time she was able to track his progress. From initially acting out physically, often aggressively, with little symbolic play, he gradually moved on to play more symbolically with a coinciding diminution of physical acting out. The content of his symbolic play over time was studied and revealed evidence of the development of more positive internal representations of self and carer, for example of a baby being looked after kindly and attentively by a mother. It was highly convincing that he had emotionally worked something through as part of the therapy. He seemed also to have benefitted from a settled period in a stable foster placement.
Outside our own events, but nearby in London, the year has also been quite exciting for devotees of Attachment Theory. One of the highlights of the year was a conference in February organised by CONFER, on Transforming Attachments. Three IAN members were invited speakers: Mario Marrone spoke on “How do we progress from an insecure to a secure attachment pattern? And what type of psychotherapy facilitates this process?” As usual his descriptions of unhelpful or iatrogenic types of therapy were eye-opening but in this presentation we also got a succinct outline of the helpful aspects, through analytic exploration, with what Bowlby called “informed inquiry”, then reactivation of episodic memory, leading to catharsis and reflexive dialogue in the encounter with the sensitive responsiveness of the therapist. Tirril Harris's talk, entitled ”Earning Security of Attachment- how is this possible through psychotherapy?”, took the four-fold categorisation of attachment patterns proposed by Kim Bartholomew (in contrast to the usual 3-fold grouping) and gave case history examples of each from her own practice and how their characteristic defence mechanisms had changed over the course of therapy. John Andrew Miller chaired the final panel with some fast footwork during the lively discussion which, as well as Mario and Tirril, included speakers Howard and Miriam Steele from New York and Sara Daniel from Copenhagen. (Jeremy Holmes and Pasco Fearon unfortunately had had to leave by then).
Two other conferences deserve mention this year because of the importance of what they were celebrating – the 25th anniversary of John Bowlby's death - and thus for their attendance by IAN members. In September the Bowlby centre held a two-day conference along with the Anna Freud Centre, and in December the Institute of Group Analysis ran a
one-day meeting with considerable experiential content. Another conference, the 7th in the series of International Attachment Conferences, which IAN was intimately involved in launching in London in 2001, held its first transatlantic meeting in August, but unfortunately it was during the family holiday period and so very few from IAN UK were able to attend.
Various policy matters concerning the focus of IAN-UK (local versus international) were addressed in a heated discussion in the summer EC. Going back through IAN's history in the 1990s newer members came to better understand the organisation's original perspective. It was decided that when the international representatives (Mario and Deborah) were unable to attend an EC, Tirril should seek, and give, a brief update report rather than leaving it until the issues were so numerous and complex over the longer timeperiod that it was hard to grasp them. Moreover it was agreed that Speakers coming from far away (e.g. Scotland, European continent) could be granted travel expenses up to £100, in addition to their £200 fee, but that if speakers chose to share their presentation with another speaker they would also have split the fee. Meanwhile Deborah has been working hard following on the decision last year that IAN-UK will run an on-line course on Attachment Theory based on the course that was successfully launched two years ago by IAN-IberoAmerican and RIA in association with Psimatica Publishers (Madrid) and directed by Elsa Wolfberg (Buenos Aires).
On the 28th September 2015 the International Attachment Network Argentina was formed. Mario attended this meeting. The group has approximately 30 members and hold monthly seminars.
IAN-UK again had some presence at the IAN-IberoAmerican conference this autumn when Arturo Ezquerro was a key invited speaker, having just completed his book about John Bowlby's life and works. It is regrettable that language barriers still impede us from fully benefiting from each other's events. This was the XIII IAN Conference on Attachment and Mental Health, that this year was held at the University of Lerida. The conference attracted 300 participants. The Executive Committee was elected. Carme Tello continues to be the Chair.
Last year we reported on plans for the development of an International Attachment Consortium involving SEAS (the Society for Emotion and Attachment Studies), the RIA (a Latin American Attachment group), IAN UK and IAN IA. After various meetings and emails it was decided that SEAS were reluctant to proliferate too many layers of bureaucracy, but that many types of collaborative arrangements concerning shared activities, publicity and discounted conference fees could be possible. RIA is holding its next International Conference in Bogota (Colombia) in March 2016 and the opportunity will arise for further discussions on this topic.
Mario Marrone, Chair. Tirril Harris, Vice-chair.