chapter  2
23 Pages

Systemic therapy and attachment narratives: Guiding framework for formulation and therapy

The approach we describe in this book draws on the attachment narrative therapy (ANT) model described in a previous book by Dallos (2006a), which details how concepts from attachment theory and systemic and narrative therapies can be brought together in ways that offer some potential for extensions of each of the three approaches. Although offering some new ways of thinking about work with families, we also want to emphasise that ANT and the developments and applications described in this book are offered, not as a new set of ‘techniques’, but as a framework with some new ways of seeing what we already do – an alternative lens with which to look at systemic and narrative therapies. To take a few examples, we think that externalising and discussing unique outcomes is effective not just, or even predominantly, because it helps to challenge problem-saturated stories but because it helps to create a sense of acceptance, safety and a secure base with and for families. The systemic concept of ‘both/and – and more’ perhaps captures this sense of how what we do with families may be seen to operate in multiple ways. However, how we describe what we do has very important implications in shaping what areas we decide to explore with families. A re-examination or a re-cognition of the potential effects of the techniques that systemic and narrative therapies employ can free us to explore further some of the emotional domains of experience in families that have become somewhat neglected in our conceptualisation and training. We are not suggesting that family sessions should become a relentless discussion or exploration of families’ feelings and attachments, but we are suggesting that it can be helpful to be aware of the emergence of feelings, at times to be able to comment and identify these, and walk around in the experience with families. In our view, these discussions are likely to emerge in the process of the systemic work we are engaged in already. We do not need to force attachment-related emotions to emerge any more than we should not ignore them when they do!