One of the great challenges, when working with early Attachment patterns we all accumulate in childhood, is that we are working in the territory of implicit memory which is pre-verbal, non-conceptual, and sub-psychological. How do we excavate this type of memory that is encoded in the body and not in the mind? – because mind was not present this early in development…  I will share some ideas for fun and effective clinical interventions in a 3-part series.

1. Focus on the unfolding present moment versus explaining the past
– Our stories are often confabulated or surmised versus accurate when we are in implicit memory land. We experience the impressions and derive a narrative. Therapists need to honor client’s experience without getting too caught up in the details of the storyline.

2. Focus on body felt sense since this type of memory is encoded in the body. We are looking to evoke, emphasize and complete bonding gestures, including reaching up and out, engaging in and receiving a kind attachment gaze, feeling the presence of a safe Other, and learning how to interactively regulate nervous system to nervous system.

3. Throw a pebble in the pond by having the client answer specific questions about their primary attachment relational history with Mom and Dad or currently about their “go-to” adult partner. Feel free to check out the free Attachment Quiz as an example. Due to the non-conscious state of implicit memory, clients often will not bring this up directly in therapy session, so we have to stimulate it if we feel that their attachment history holds some clues for deep healing.

4. Therapist’s ability for “Presencing” Secure Attachment. The therapist needs to heal his or her own attachment history enough to do this important step well.  Presencing Secure Attachment includes a strong emphasis on safety, attunement, empathy, compassion, presence, appropriate playfulness, and safe touch when appropriate. It also includes consistency, immediacy of repair of mis-attunements or misunderstandings, “gleam beam” or kind eye gaze, prosody or a soothing modulation in the therapist’s voice, and ability to contain various emotional states that arise in the clients process, as well as showing a responsive face and social engagement skills. Boundaries and connection without intrusiveness are important too.

5. Amplified positive moments in memory of attachment bonding or through structured corrective experiences, or in the moment in the session between you as the therapist and them as the client. These lived experiences must be overtly emphasized as the client may not pick up on the secure attachment relational field you are providing if they are still very identified with a difficult history.