Reframing Attachment: Attachment Theory and Practice in Short-Term Work

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Organised by:

Birkbeck University of London, Birkbeck Counselling Service

31 January 2024

Time: 09:00 - 13:00

Price: Standard: £75, Series Ticket: £220 (discounted tickets available for trainees/students/group bookings)

Location: online


The Birkbeck Training Series enters its sixth year in 2023-24. Launched in 2018 by the Student Counselling Service at Birkbeck, University of London, the workshops are created by and for HE counsellors and are tailored specifically for short-term work with students. We are very proud to have become a valued source of training within the sector and we hope to continue to provide a specialised thinking space for Counsellors working in HE.

Every year we focus on a theme to better understand how to reframe our way of working in this context. This year we have decided to focus on a topic that is at the very heart of the therapeutic relationship and human development – Attachment.

Bowlby defined attachment as the “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings”. Its theory focuses on relationships and bonds (particularly long-term) between people, including those between a parent and child and between romantic partners and suggests that people are born with a need to forge bonds, and that these early bonds may continue to have an influence on attachments throughout life.

Given that attachment theory is based firmly in long-term therapy, our trainings will look to explore and reframe how we can understand it in the context of short-term work.

With that in mind we would like to invite you to join us for our 2023-24 Training Series.

Training 1: Attachment Theory and Practice in short-term work by Dr. Jeremy Holmes

Wednesday 31 January 2024, 9am-1pm

About the Workshop

Attachment Theory (AT) is not all about attachment. Bowlby’s famous trilogy titles included Separation and Loss. The Strange Situation Procedure invented and developed by Bowlby’s co-creator of Attachment, Mary Ainsworth delineated the four patterns of attachment – secure, and insecure-anxious, -avoidant and -disorganised, all arising out of how children and their carers handle separation and reunion in vivo. Similarly, Mary Main’s parallel classification of discourse styles – fluid-autonomous, preoccupied, dismissing and unresolved-disorganised – are based on how adults describe the ruptures and repairs of their lives in the Adult Attachment Interview.

Regardless of which school of thought one ascribes to, attachment theory remains a cornerstone of therapeutic work. However, as most training programs are taught with long-term therapy in mind, the focus of this workshop will be to consider the vicissitudes of time-limited therapy (TLT) and how to reframe our understanding of attachment from this perspective. We will consider the many varieties of TLT and their attachment relevant features; These include a focus on the here-and-now rather than reconstructions of the past, attempts to foster the capacity to mentalising symptoms and transferential events as they arise, emphasis on separation and loss as built into the model, including the ‘count down’ to the end of the 6 sessions, using client’s discourse style as revealed in the assessment to predict how they will handle the ruptures of session and therapy endings, finding a focal tripartite encapsulation which brings together their relationship to a) their symptoms b) past care-givers c) the therapist and considering whether a good-bye letter or diagram could symbolise the lost therapist at the end of treatment, and provide a material for a secure base equivalent which can carry clients through the post-therapy challenges of student life.

The latter half of the workshop there will comprise of group discussions, Q&A and a ‘live supervision’ of two cases which will be presented and discussed to highlight the concepts explored in clinical practice.

About the Speaker

Jeremy Holmes MD FRCPsych is an Honorary Professor at the University of Exeter and was for 35 years medical psychotherapist and Consultant Psychiatrist at UCL and then in North Devon UK. He was Chair of the medical psychotherapy faculty of the Royal College of Psychiatrists 1998-2002. Author of over 250 papers and book chapters, his books include The Oxford Textbook of Psychotherapy (2008, co-eds Glen Gabbard & Judy Beck) John Bowlby and Attachment Theory (2014), Attachment in Therapeutic Practice (2017), and The Brain has a Mind of its Own (2020). He is recipient of the Bowlby-Ainsworth foundation award New York, and the Canadian Clinical Psychology Goethe Prize. Allotment gardening, Green politics and grand-parenting now parallel his lifelong fascination with psychoanalytic psychotherapy and attachment theory.

For more information regarding the event or our other trainings, please visit our website:

If you have any queries about bookings, eligibility for discounted tickets, how to make group bookings or would like us to send you the event brochure, please email Aditi Dhar at

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