An Attachment-based Approach to Working with People with Dissociative Disorders

Attachment theory and research is an area of ongoing development, with profound implications for the field of mental health. Some of its most recent developments have been in the clinical application of its concepts to psychotherapeutic work. However, its clinical application to psychotherapeutic work with people who have experienced trauma and developed dissociative disorders, including dissociative identity disorder, is still in its early stages. This is likely to be an area of significant development over the next decade.

This intermediate level workshop will present and use a number of contemporary attachment theory concepts to understand and work with the clinical issues with people who have been severely traumatised in early attachment relationships, leading to the development of dissociative disorders. Concepts used will include the Circle of Security™ (Powell et al., 2014), attachment-based systems (Heard et al. 2009) and attachment concepts originating in the work of John Bowlby. Detailed examples will be given from attachment-based psychoanalytic psychotherapeutic work to illustrate the application of these concepts and demonstrate how they can help with recovery.

The following will be presented and explored in the workshop:

  • Using the Circle of Security™ to think about attachment-based psychotherapeutic practice
  • The impact of severe childhood trauma on attachment-based systems (caregiving, careseeking, self-defence, interest-sharing, sexuality and the relationally constructed internal and external environments)
  • Patterns of care-seeking – how are they manifested and how can we respond clinically
  • The two different types of caregiving – what are their features and when are they needed
  • The presence in the psychotherapy of re-enactments of internal/relational working models
  • The potential significance one’s own emotional and relational responses (countertransference)

The workshop will include diverse examples of work with people with dissociative identity disorders, including children and adults, people with intellectual disabilities, and people from a range of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

This session was originally presented as a live conference session in May 2020.

Target Audience


Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this session participants will be able to:

  • Discuss how to analyze clinical issues arising in therapeutic work with people with dissociative disorders from an attachment theory perspective
  • Utilize these concepts in their therapeutic work with people with dissociative disorders to support mental health and relational recovery
  • Explain and therapeutically utilize the potential meaning of one’s own emotional and relational experience in psychotherapeutic clinical work
Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 3.00 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 3.00 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.
Course opens: 
Course expires: 
ISSTD Member cost:
Your Price:

Presenter:  Mark Linington
Presenter Bio: Mark Linington is an attachment-based psychoanalytic psychotherapist, registered with the United Kingdom Council of Psychotherapy. He is currently the Clinical Director at CDS UK (Clinic for Dissociative Studies) where he assesses, case manages and works clinically with those with dissociative disorders. He is a member of the Bowlby Centre, where he was previously the CEO, where he is a training therapist, supervisor and teacher. He worked for 12 years in the UK National Health Service as a psychotherapist with people with intellectual disabilities with complex mental health issues, including those with dissociative disorders, who had experienced trauma. He also works in private practice as an attachment-based psychoanalytic psychotherapist including work with those who have experienced severe attachment trauma.

Available Credit

  • 3.00 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 3.00 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.


ISSTD Member cost:
Your Price:
Please login or register to take this course.

"Your Price" above reflects your final price based on your membership status and career level. 

  • ISSTD defines a student as those enrolled in a program of study leading to a degree or certification in the mental health field and who have an interest in trauma and dissociation. 
  • ISSTD defines an emerging professional as mental health professionals who have completed an advanced degree and are in the first three years of their career (or first three years after graduation for researchers).
  • If you do not fall into one of the above categories please register as Professional/Retired. 

These prices are for Tier I countries. For a list of countries by Tier click here. If you are located in a country that falls into Tier II-VI please contact ISSTD at to receive the appropriate discount code.