There are many approaches to making sense of our human drive for togetherness. This course distills the science of relationship to its essence and then explores the implications for working with children. The course is divided into eight sessions, each containing an hour of videocourse material. Because of the density of the material, the DVDs are not offered as stand-alones but only in the context of the continuing education course or supported by trained facilitators.

Course Description

The science of relationship currently exists in fragmented bits and pieces all over the empirical map: biology, sociology, embryology, ethology, epigenetics, neuroscience, psychology, medicine, psychology, and so on. The irony is that we have never known more about the relational context required for parenting, teaching and treatment, and yet this knowledge is failing to inform our everyday practice and policy. According to Gordon Neufeld, this failure of implementation may stem from the current lack of theoretical coherence as well as the esoteric language typical to these fields of inquiry. Neufeld's unique contribution is to put the puzzle pieces together to create a coherent model of attachment, using language that is accessible to all. His model of attachment has profound implications for practice, whatever one's involvement with adults or children.

Suitability/Applicability

This course is primarily directed towards helping professionals involved with children: pediatricians, social workers, child psychiatrists, child psychologists, pediatric nurses, as well as others involved in children. The course is open to all who wish to understand the science of relationship as it applies to children.

Topics/Objectives

  • to provide a coherent model of attachment that can be used across the age-span and to assess attachment problems as well as remediate them
  • to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of separation - both short-term and long-term
  • to make sense of shyness and other behaviours designed to protect existing attachments
  • to provide an understanding of how the capacity for relationship is meant to develop and the consequences of its failure
  • to reveal attachment as the only effective context for dealing with the immature
  • to uncover the attachment roots of such problems as anxiety, attention problems, aggression, oppositionality and bullying
  • to introduce the ‘separation complex’ as an over-arching syndrome that can account for a myriad of problem behaviours as well as qualify a child for a number of diagnoses
  • to elucidate the dynamic of defensive detachment and enable participants to recognize its many faces as well as its underlying role in several troubling syndromes
  • to flesh out the dynamic of competing attachments and provide strategies to resolve these issues
  • to debunk the myth of universal receptivity in children and to reveal attachment as the key to adult empowerment

Course Outline

The course is structured into eight sessions with one hour of instructional video per session.

Session 1- The Construct of Attachment: naming the elephant in the room

Attachment impacts everyone yet is rarely put into words. In this session the various pieces of the attachment puzzle are identified, attachment defined, and the hierarchical nature of attachment discussed. The ‘alpha complex’ is also introduced.

Session 2 - Receptivity and Empowerment: cultivating right relationship

Ignorant of attachment, we have made false assumptions regarding children’s receptivity to care and direction. Once understood it becomes obvious that children were meant to be dealt with in the context of their attachment to the adults responsible for them. The implications are discussed as well as the constructs of peer orientation and counterwill.

Session 3 - Becoming Attached: six stages to full potential

The human capacity for relationship is a potential that only fully develops when conditions are conducive. The first six years of life are where this basic human capacity begins to unfold. A flight from vulnerability will cripple a child’s ability to attach and hold on when apart. The model of attachment that is presented can be applied to any age and any relationship. Also discussed is how to engage the attachment instincts and build relationship.

Session 4 - Attachment and Maturation: bringing attachment to fruition

Maturation is the outcome of fulfilling attachment. The greatest developmental sin is to prematurely push for results, such as independence and social integration, instead of nurturing the underlying attachment roots. Children must find rest from the work of attachment for healthy development to occur.

Session 5 - Shyness and Competing Attachments: handling protective instincts

One cannot make sense of a child without an understanding of the polarized nature of attachment. When not informed by attachment, shyness is either pathologized as social anxiety or misconstrued as lack of confidence or self-esteem. Shyness serves an important function in preserving existing attachments and should be honoured rather than countered. The implications of shyness are discussed for dealing with children outside their primary working attachments.

Session 6 - The Separation Complex: uncovering the roots of anxiety, aggression and bullying

Nothing impacts mammals more than facing separation. Humans are doubly impacted because separation is much more than physical and the anticipation of separation can have the same effect as the actual experience. The ‘separation complex’ is introduced as the core of alarm problems, alpha problems, aggression problems, the bully instinct and much more.

Session 7 - Defensive Detachment: bridging what could divide

When the vulnerability is too much to bear, the brain’s ultimate defense is to reverse the attachment instincts. This reaction can be situational and temporary or chronic and pervasive. Understanding this attachment reversal is essential to dealing with wounded children as it is often at the core of various and diverse symptoms and syndromes. Also discussed is how to deal with this challenging dynamic.

Session 8 - The Attachment Cure: working with wounded children

The closest we could come to a panacea for children’s problems would be to reduce the separation they are facing. This session explores the ways we as adults can do this for the children in our care.

Registration Details

The tuition fee for taking the Attachment Puzzle through continuing education is $200. The tuition includes a virtual campus student pass of three months to access the videocourse material as well as other supporting materials. If a personal copy of the DVD set is desired, the tuition fee is $275.

The tuition fees for live courses arranged by individual Neufeld Faculty and Facilitators, or by other agencies, are set independently and may differ from course to course.

Course Coordinator

Course Coordinator Darlene Denis-Friske has been a member of the Neufeld Institute Faculty since 2010. She comes to this role with a strong academic background as well as a professional involvement in treatment.

© 2016 The Neufeld Institute
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