Developing and Repairing Trust: An Attachment-based Model of Family Therapy


Friday 27 September 2019 - London

A One Day Workshop with Dr Dan Hughes

The theories and research of attachment, intersubjectivity, and neurobiology have created a strong foundation for a model of family therapy that creates both the safety needed for parents and children to be openly present in the sessions as well as the patterns of engagement and exploration needed to create new family relational patterns. Parenting is very challenging, being influenced by the parent’s own attachment histories as well as by evolving models of family and community life. Finding a middle way between permissive and authoritarian approaches to parenting is often difficult when parents do not have their own attachment history as an effective guide. Parents are supported to remain open and engaged with their children while addressing the challenges of family living.




Dr Dan Hughes,


Registration and coffee

Developmental Patterns of Trust and Mistrust
The thrust of our development tends toward one of two directions: We rely on our attachment figures to keep us safe and to guide us in learning the important developmental challenges that we face. Or we rely on ourselves to generate our own safety, though the efforts required will greatly compromise key features of our psychological, emotional, and cognitive development. Many children alternate between the two paths and when under stress, do not seem to do what might be best for them. Active in these two developmental pathways are neurobiological systems of defensiveness and of being open-and-engaged. Key relational characteristics of each pattern will be explored. Features that facilitate development within a healthy family will be presented as being the same features that enable therapy to support the development of such families.


Building and Repairing Trust: In Therapy and at Home
Using the synchronized intentions and movements between parents and infants as our guide, the development of therapeutic conversations will be described in some detail. Features of intersubjectivity and their expression within therapy will be presented. The importance of the therapeutic attitude of PACE-playfulness, acceptance, curiosity, and empathy-will be highlighted, while describing the core features of each component. Finally, we will discuss how therapeutic exploration of defenses and challenging behaviors undermines psychological safety for both the parent and child. We will consider how safety needs to be continuously re-established and the relationship repaired again before therapeutic explorations may continue.


Therapeutic Safety and Engagement with Parents
The first focus of the attachment-based family therapist is to generate safety for the parents so the first sessions involve seeing the parents alone. The attitude of PACE is utilised to enable them to remain safe while the therapist explores their parenting attitudes, words and actions, addressing those which might undermine their child’s sense of safety and create relationship disruptions. The parents’ own attachment history will be explored in order to enable parents to understand their strength or resistance to change in their parenting behaviors. This stage of the therapy enables the parents to be safe enough to openly explore their relationships with their children and to prepare for the upcoming joint sessions with them.


Therapeutic Safety and Engagement for All Family Members
Once the parents’ safety is established and maintained, the therapist and parents together create safety for the children. The therapist takes an active role ensuring that the child’s safety is maintained while helping them to begin to explore the fear, shame and vulnerabilities that lie under their defenses and challenging behaviours. The parents are also given the support they need to respond with empathy to their child’s vulnerabilities, as they experience the deeper meanings of their children’s behaviours. The habitual relational patterns occurring at home are now understood while new patterns are developing. We will consider how the therapist can ensure that the therapeutic experience contains these new attachment-sensitive patterns.

Final Questions



Handouts and lunch included
Early bird:
£100 (SOLD OUT)

£120 (SOLD OUT)

Self-funded x 2:
£200 (SOLD OUT)

£200 (SOLD OUT)

Psychotherapy trainee:
£80 (SOLD OUT)


Certificates of attendance for 6 hours will be provided at the event


Grange Fitzrovia Conference Suite
Bolsover Street


09.30 Registration and coffee
10:00 Start
11:15 Coffee
13:00 Lunch break
15:30 Tea
17:00 End


Regrettably, refunds cannot be given in any circumstances except as follows:

  • You cancel in writing to 60 days before the first date of the event you have booked, in which case you will be entitled to a 100% refund.
  • You cancel in writing to 30 days before the first date of the event you have booked, in which case you will be entitled to a 50% refund.

This does not apply to parts of an event such as a seminar within a series but only to a whole event or complete series. You may give your place to another person if you let us know that person's name at least 24 hours before the event begins.

We reserve the right to change a speaker at one of our conferences without offering a refund. However, if a solo presenter cancels we will offer a full refund OR transfer of your fee to another Confer event. If the entire event is cancelled we will offer you a full refund.

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