Invisible Attachment Trauma: A Novel Perspective on the Early Parent–Child Relationship

April 26, 2024

Abstract
Attachment research has powerfully demonstrated the importance of relationships with caregivers. Attachment is a relational construct (Sroufe, 2021, p. 17), which means that it develops through specific caregiver–child relational experiences. Fearon and Schuengel (2021, p. 25) describe it as a domain within a relationship. In this domain, specific attachment interactions are active, which, in caregiver–child relationships, offer children protection, safety, comfort, and belonging (Ainsworth, 1991). Attachment is a fundamentally meaningful affectional bond characterized by a desire to maintain closeness to the caregiver. When this relationship ends for unknown reasons, it causes distress in the child (Ainsworth, 1991, p. 38). Bowlby (1951) regards the child’s relationship with their mother, which is, by far, of the most importance to the child’s in the early years.

Over the years, within the attachment field, the term “attachment” has extended to relationships with fathers, siblings, and adult romantic partners, among others. Within the scope of this workshop, attachment is limited to the mother–child relationship. Further, the quality of mother–child interactions is a significant factor in the unfolding of a safe attachment relationship (de Falco et al., 2014). A safe attachment reflects the child’s confidence in the mother’s emotional availability (M. Ainsworth et al., 1978). A mother’s psychological availability for the infant depends on her ability to be sensitive and responsive to them. Sensitive responsiveness can be considered an umbrella concept, holding different attachment interactions needed to develop safe attachment. These attachment interactions, among others, include delightfulness, playfulness, mentalization, and reflective functioning. The lack of these attachment interactions results in a mother’s psychological unavailability, hindering a safe attachment relationship. Simultaneously, the inability to utilize these interactions in a relationship results in the mother’s inability to be the external regulator of the child’s internal world. This workshop aims to increase awareness and recognition of a specific form of attachment trauma: invisible attachment trauma (IAT; D’Hooghe, 2018). Caused by the lack of necessary attachment interactions, IAT emphasizes the mother’s unavailability and inability to modulate the child’s internal states as invisible trauma. Both the physical and psychological unavailability of a parent will be clarified.

Further, the attachment interactions, such as attunement, mirroring, and containment, needed for a mother to serve as an external regulator of the internal world of the child will be discussed in depth. The consequences of IAT on a child’s developmental trajectory will be redefined as dissociative reactions hierarchically structured in eight developmental areas. It is crucial for therapists to have a solid understanding of IAT and these significant attachment interactions so that they can help parents develop safe attachment relationships with their children.

Potential to Distress: No

Target Audience

Intermediate

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will be able to: 

  • Explain three attachment interactions that may contribute to the development of a safe attachment
  • Describe the different features of  invisible attachment trauma
  • Identify the differences between physical and psychological unavailability
  • List three consequences of invisible attachment trauma
Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 1.50 APA
    The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
  • 1.50 ASWB ACE
    The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD), #1744, is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved as ACE providers. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. ISSTD maintains responsibility for this course. ACE provider approval period: 08/20/2021 – 08/20/2024. Social workers completing this course receive 1.50 continuing education credits.
  • 1.50 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 1.50 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.
Course opens: 
02/06/2024
Course expires: 
12/31/2050
Event starts: 
04/26/2024 - 1:00pm EDT
Event ends: 
04/26/2024 - 2:30pm EDT
Rating: 
0

Presenter: Doris D'Hooghe, BA
Presenter Bio: Doris D'Hooghe is a Psychotraumatologist, Integrative Child therapist, and EMDR Practitioner. She started her career as a psychiatric nurse and has over 35 years of experience as a psychotherapist and child therapist.She is the founder of Trauma Center Belgium (www.traumacentrum.be) and has worked since 1990 in private practice where she offers therapy for complex trauma in children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly. Her special focus is on the complex consequences of early childhood and prenatal trauma, as well as the development of treatment models. She took several courses such as Gestalt Therapy, Group Therapy, Transpersonal Psychology, Integrative Child Therapy, Psychotraumatology, and EMDR.

As a specialist in early childhood trauma in an attachment relationship, she developed the concept of "Invisible Attachment Trauma" (see the publication "Seeing the Unseen: Early Attachment Trauma and The Impact on Child Development" in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Behavior). She contributed to the book "The Neuroeducation Toolbox: Practical Translation of Neuroscience in Counseling and Psychotherapy". With author Frauke Heyde, she wrote a self-help book for children with PTSD, "Oscar en het avontuur in de speelgoedkist" published by Garant.

In the last few years, she has been actively involved in redefining dissociation as an early attachment trauma-related process that negatively impacts a child's development. She and her colleague Layla Brack developed the ‘Developmental Model of Dissociation’. Her work is mainly inspired by and based on the fusion of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Spirituality. Her affiliation with the ISSTD dates back to 2012, and she has presented at various ISSTD Congresses in recent years She is member of the ISSTD Taskforce Child Dissociative Guidelines and C& A Committee. For the last 10 years, she has been a much-approved teacher and speaker nationally and internationally.
 

Available Credit

  • 1.50 APA
    The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
  • 1.50 ASWB ACE
    The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD), #1744, is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved as ACE providers. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. ISSTD maintains responsibility for this course. ACE provider approval period: 08/20/2021 – 08/20/2024. Social workers completing this course receive 1.50 continuing education credits.
  • 1.50 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 1.50 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.
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