Investigating attachment narratives in couple therapy for depression
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
To publish papers from my dissertation.
Objective: The Exeter Model is an integrative systemic-behavioural and systemic-empathic couple therapy for treating people with depression. ‘Attachment narratives’ is a component of the systemic-empathic approach, which seeks to help the couple understand how past relationships impact on the current relationship with the aim of rebuilding trust and security between the couple. This study sought to examine how attachment narratives in this Model are used by therapists. Method: Narrative Analysis was employed to explore attachment narratives in three couples who had completed therapy in an outpatient clinic where one member of the couple had been referred with depression. Results: Analysis highlighted four specific ways in which therapists used attachment narratives. These consisted of: therapist enabled stories of past relationships to be foregrounded; attachment theory employed to build hypothesis about attachment styles based on past relationships; therapist helped the couple understand how attachment styles maintain unhelpful cycles of relating and introduced alternative relationship narratives enabling improved trust and security. Analysis also demonstrated the structuring of these attachment narratives across the therapy sessions. Conclusion: This study shows that through the therapist paying attention to attachment styles, awareness of unhelpful cycles of relating within couples can be highlighted, and adjustments to how the couple can relate to each other suggested. This exploratory study serves to better inform the use of the Exeter Model.