About This Course
DAVID S. ELLIOTT
David S. Elliott, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who received his doctorate from Harvard University in 1989. He is co-author of the bookAttachment Disturbances in Adults: Treatment for Comprehensive Repair (Norton, 2016), which was given the Pierre Janet Writing Award from the Inter- national Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. He is Faculty and Chair of the Advisory Board at the International School for Psycho- therapy, Counseling, and Group Leadership (St. Petersburg, Russia), was President of the Rhode Island Psychological Association (USA), and has held leadership positions in several mental health advocacy organizations. His psychotherapy practice is based in the USA, and he consults and teaches internationally on psy-chotherapy, attachment, personality and self development.
Healing attachment insecurity with the help of imagined ideal parent figures in psychotherapy.
Effective treatments for attachment insecurity include recognition of the vital role of the felt sense of being empathically attuned to by important others. As psychotherapists, we try our best to be attuned and responsive, and to express and mirror qualities of being that help our patients to feel protected and cared for, seen and known, valued and valuable, and appreci- ated and loved. Though we can be very helpful in these ways, there is a practical limitation to this mode of treatment: Our insecure patients carry internal working models of themselves as children being in some form of problematic relationship with their parents. A new and positive adult relationship with a psychotherapist is certainly bene cial, but it is unlikely to replace or most efficiently change the original problematic internal working model. As a complement to the ‘therapist as good attachment gure’ approach, “ideal parent gures” can be part of the therapeutic process toward attachment security. When an adult patient, in the context of a safe and attuned therapeutic relationship, imagines being and feeling as a young child and interact- ing with imagined parents who embody all the qualities of being and behavior that feeljust right to the patient-as-child, the original problematic internal working model becomes replaced by a new, positive, secure attachment relationship model. This approach is consistent with and complementary to the principles and implications of polyvagal theory, memory reconsolidation, and relational and body-oriented psychotherapies.