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Selfhood in Parenthood: Attachment and the transition to parenthood: Video Course


Speaker: Dr Gwen Adshead and Gerry Byrne

Product: Video Course
Price: £135

CPD Hours: 5

Video course packs, including all notes are available immediately on booking. The access links are part of your ticket. Online video access remains available for 1 year from the date you receive the video course.

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Becoming a person is, perhaps, a lifelong journey and we are variously supported or inhibited in this by the nature of our historic and current attachment bonds and bindings. Becoming a parent is a life experience that most of us will encounter on that journey. We land, as it were, on the shores of parenthood either through careful navigation or by being abruptly blown there, but regardless of how prepared we might imagine ourselves to be, or how carefully planned our landing – some transformation or at worst, shipwreck must occur. We are not always aware of how our early attachment history affects how we ‘see’ ourselves as people or as parents, and as we become parents, we also tend to look at our children through the lens of our own attachment models and narratives, which can present problems if we have unresolved distress about attachment experiences.

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Full Course Information

Secure attachment for a child is known to be influenced by the parental state of mind, and there is now increasing evidence for the transgenerational transmission of attachment. At this intellectually stimulating and practically oriented one-day seminar, relevant for therapists working with children, adults or families, Dr Gwen Adshead and Gerry Byrne explain how the parental state of mind is the key ‘environment’ that influences child development in the first 1000 days.

However, there is also evidence (such as the orchid-dandelion hypothesis of child development: Ellis, 2008) that there are ‘environments’ that can damage even the most resilient children. Parental harshness, chronic hostility and a rejecting stance might form part of such hazardous environments; such ‘maladaptive parental behaviour’ is not just associated with high rates of child and adolescent psychopathology; but also, with higher manifestations of conduct and / or oppositional defiant disorders in children. At the same time, there is evidence that insecurity of adult attachment in parents does influence parental behaviour; and may also influence the development of parental mental health problems such as personality dysfunction, substance misuse, depression and the tendency to make dysfunctional relationships with partners.

At this seminar, the speakers draw on their extensive clinical experience, recent neurobiological findings and relational thought to help us comprehend:

  • What attachment-based research tells us about transitions to parenthood and how it affects parenting behaviour and parental relationships with children
  • How insecurity of attachment persists across the lifespan into adulthood
  • The evidence of insecurity of attachment in parents and its relevance for offspring attachment
  • The importance of mentalising skill and attachment
  • Attachment insecurity in adults and mental health problems: personality disorders, substance misuse, domestic violence, anxiety
  • How core parenting skills are affected by adult insecurity of attachment
  • The evidence that shows the risk to child development, both in terms of genetic vulnerability and environmental stress factors
  • Clinical interventions for parents with insecure attachment
  • How we can help parents retain and/or regain a sense of self and manage their own attachment issues throughout parenthood and consider the kind of parenting programmes that achieve this while helping parents to ‘see’ their children more clearly

Maintaining the view that therapeutic interventions for parents with attachment problems are both effective and preventive, the seminar explains how therapists can apply these learnings in clinical settings and allow for provision of relational security at multiple levels.

About the speakers

Dr Gwen Adshead is a Forensic Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist. She trained at St George’s Hospital, the Institute of Psychiatry and the Institute of Group Analysis.  She is trained as a group therapist and a Mindfulness-based cognitive therapist and has also trained in Mentalisation-based therapy. She worked for nearly twenty years as a Consultant Forensic Psychotherapist at Broadmoor Hospital, running psychotherapeutic groups for offenders and working with staff around relational security and organisational dynamics. She is the co-editor of Clinical topics in Personality Disorder (with Dr Jay Sarkar) which was awarded first prize in the psychiatry Section of the BMA book awards 2013; and she also co-edited Personality Disorder: the Definitive Collection with Dr Caroline Jacob. She is the co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Forensic Psychiatry (2013) and the Oxford Handbook of Medical Psychotherapy(2016). She is also the co-editor of Munchausens’s Syndrome by Proxy: Current issues in Assessment, Treatment and Research.

Gwen was visiting professor at Yale School of Psychiatry and Law in 2013; and also honoured with the President’s Medal for services to psychiatry that same year for her work on ethics in psychiatry. She was awarded an honorary doctorate by St George’s hospital in 2015; and was Gresham Professor of Psychiatry 2014-2017. She now works in a medium secure unit in Hampshire in a service for high-risk offenders with personality disorder; and in a women’s prison. Her new book: The Deluded Self: Narcissism and its Disorders is out now with nscience publishing house.

Gerry Byrne is Head of Attachment and Perinatal Services for Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, including the Family Assessment & Safeguarding Service (FASS Oxford, Wiltshire and Bath & North East Somerset), the Infant Parent Perinatal Service (IPPS) and the ReConnect Service (Buckinghamshire). The FASS and ReConnect services offer multidisciplinary, expert witness assessments and NHS treatments for severe parenting problems, including child abuse and neglect (physical, sexual, psychological maltreatment, and fabricated and induced illness). Gerry is also Clinical Lead for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy for the Trust for Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. He has worked in CAMHS for over 30 years, and since 1990 he has specialised in the assessment of parent-infant relationships and attachment, and the individual assessment and treatment of parents who have abused their infants/children.

He is the originator of the Lighthouse Mentalization Based Treatment-Parenting Programme, an innovative application of MBT, which aims to prevent child maltreatment by promoting sensitive caregiving in parents. He has trained clinicians in the programme in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Denmark and Australia.

© nscience, UK, 2021 / 22

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