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Engagement & Pain

Engagement & Pain



Sue Johnson recently spoke of a study that was conducted a few years ago, that has to do with shock treatment. A client with insecure attachment was placed in a chair and told that when the bell went off, a slight shock would happen to them. Johnson and her team measured the brain chemistry taking place during the shock, with a stranger, and with a partner, finding no difference in the individual's comfort level.


Then, after having the individual with insecure attachment go through the process of EFT, they measured again. This time they found that when the partner held the person's hand, even when they knew the shock was coming, their brain acted calm, at rest, and the shock hurt less (Johnson, 2017).


This speaks to the power of attachment, the power of helping our clients heal and the deep need for presence with clients. And it also makes us ask: what do we need to heal insecure attachment?


Johnson reports the following:

The ability to share deep emotion in a relationship: Or can I show you the deepest level of my heart, and have you respond?

A 'safe haven': Or a sense the other in a relationship is giving us their full attention. Put down the phones people!

The ability to accept ourselves as we are: we all have attachment vulnerabilities, it's not being perfect, it's just being honest about these.

Emotional Responsiveness: The ability to feel what others need from us, what we need from others, and to respond to these needs not from a place of want, but a place of giving.

Johnson reports that when these are in play, so many beautiful and wonderful things can happen in life. And attachment secured is correlated with improved mental health and positive functioning in every area of psychology (Johnson, 2017).


Johnson also reports that a collaborative engagement between therapist and client, rather than a coaching relationship around emotions, predict better emotional outcomes for the client. So the next time you tell a client what they should, or should not feel, or seek to jump in with a coping strategy, remember this from Johnson:


"Safe connection empowers us..research shows that it builds a more positive, articulate and coherent sense of self...attachment gives us meaning."


Article of Choice

Sue Johnson (2017) The new era of couple therapy – innovation indeed, Person-Centered & Experiential Psychotherapies

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