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The fourteenth John Bowlby Memorial Conference, held in London in March 2007, stood out as a special conference in a special year. It coincided with the centenary of John Bowlby's birth, and the conference organizing committee were conscious, in particular, of a desire to celebrate the pioneering nature of his work, and the profoundly significant contribution it has made to the understanding, prevention and healing of emotional suffering.
Recent research in the fields of attachment and trauma is once more pointing to the contribution of early relational failures to extreme psychic suffering. Disorganised patterns of attachment, identified in children whose caregivers are simultaneously a source of fear and a source of comfort, have been linked to the development of both dissociative and so called borderline disorders in adult life.
The conference aim was to bring together speakers able to extend their thinking and bring insights from attachment theory and psychoanalysis to the current debate about the links between the traumatic disorganization of attachment relationships and more severe mental and emotional distress--dissociative states, borderline experiences and psychosis--as they emerge in clinical practice.
The papers in this volume have in common a committed insistence upon placing human relationship at the center of their accounts of extreme psychological suffering, both as the source of injury and, most hopefully, as the potential agent of repair. In this respect, they contribute fittingly in his centenary year to the continuation and extension of John Bowlby's pioneering work for the understanding, treatment and relief of such suffering.
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Kate White is a training therapist, supervisor, and teacher at the Centre for Attachment-based Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy (CAPP). Formerly Senior Lecturer at South Bank University in the Department of Nursing and Community Health Studies, she has used her extensive experience in adult education to contribute to the innovative psychotherapy curriculum developed at CAPP. In addition to working as an individual psychotherapist, Kate runs workshops on the themes of attachment and trauma in clinical practice. Informed by her experience of growing up in South Africa, she has long been interested in the impact of race and culture on theory and on clinical practice.Review:
“In an age in which traumatized clients are often misunderstood, maltreated, or rejected by the mental health system, this book is required reading for every clinician. It opens our eyes to the mind shattering effects of early childhood traumatization that take place within dysfunctional attachment relationships – relationships in which children are utterly dependent on their caretakers. Moreover, it powerfully describes the way in which clients who come to us for help are caught in an unbearable conflict between attachment needs and the intense fear of entering a therapeutic relationship. Shattered States highlights what traumatized individuals need from therapists in order to heal and what it takes from the therapists to meet these needs, including the ability to bear witness; therapeutic skills; boundaries; patience; kind firmness; compassion; understanding; and the capacity to mentalize.” (Onno van der Hart, co-author of The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization and Honorary Professor of Psychopathology of Chronic Traumatization)
"I found this work especially valuable because it spoke to two important themes: one about how the early experience of hostility from caregivers causes a type of disturbance in the mind which is profound and long-lasting and needs to be looked for at assessment; and also about the importance of using psychological techniques that speak to the meaning of experience, irrespective of diagnosis. This may mean some modification of traditional technique; but all the authors described clinical material that demonstrated in a most moving way, the need for people in desperate mental states to be listened to as people with minds, not just carriers of disease. As research into these disorders, and their attachment roots continues, we should expect to keep learning new ways of thinking and working with people who are frightened by their own minds; and these authors have provided us with powerful learning tools." (Gwen Adshead, co-editor of A Matter of Security: The Application of Attachment Theory to Forensic Psychiatry and Psychotherapy and forensic psychiatrist, consultant psychotherapist, and group analyst)
“This is a fascinating and important collection about the central significance of human relationships both in the generation of severe psychological distress and in its relief. It is essential reading for all those concerned with working with survivors of early trauma.” (Oliver James, clinical psychologist, journalist, and author)
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