Attachment Disorders & Family of Origin Issues


Attachment Disorders

Some of our biggest issues come from our early caregiver experiences. Attachment disorder is a broad term that generally describes disorders of social relationships, behavior and mood which results from disruptions in attachment to primary caregivers in early childhood, usually before three years of age. Failure to attach to the primary caregiver usually results from significant experiences of abuse, neglect, abrupt caregiver separation, frequent change of caregivers or excessive numbers of caregivers, or lack of caregiver responsiveness to child communicative efforts.

In order to heal the attachment wound, people suffering from attachment disorders need to have a reparative experience by attaching to another human being. This could be done by any caring person significant to the individual with the attachment disorder. The difficulty is that the problem areas of those with attachment disorder (behavior, mood, social relationship) make it hard to sustain a relationship long enough to repair the attachment wound. For the attachment disordered person, the original wound occurred in relationship and can only be healed within the context of relationship. This is where counseling comes into play. With disorders of attachment, the therapist becomes the attachment person for the client. For these people, the therapeutic relationship is critical to the healing process.

Family of Origin Issues

Just because we may have been abused, neglected, etc. does not mean that we will have issues with attachment, particularly for those whose abuse occurred later in childhood. Still, issues around trust, loneliness, abandonment and power can all be deeply rooted in childhood experiences. Life events such as divorce, loss of a parent, repeated relocations can have significant effects on the developing child and can affect how we live our lives as adults. Likewise, family patterns, such as secrecy, manipulation and misogyny, can also affect the quality of our lives and our adult relationships.

We often begin work with family of origin issues by creating a genogram, a family tree, that includes family patterns. Working with family-of-origin dynamics can be very helpful as we often repeat those dynamics in love, work and personal relationships. In counseling, we work to heal to family dynamic and to create new relational dynamics.