This is Roberta. She has the pre-occupied attachment style.
Roberta grew up in a family of all men. At the age of two, her mother passed away and she was left to be raised by her father. Because of her mother’s death, Roberta has suffered from separation-anxiety and has always feared losing the ones she cares most about. In her teenage years, Roberta discovered her died had lied to her about her mother’s death to help her understand as a child and she began to be very angry with him. Since this discovery, Roberta holds the anger towards her father but has begun to wonder if it was his way of also coping with his wife’s death. Despite the anger, Roberta mentions she stayed in her home town, Shelby, Indiana, in order to be close and take care of her father along with her best friend Chrissy. Chrissy is the only person Roberta has allowed to know the darkest and deepest parts of her life. She is the only person Roberta can truly trust, but she fears the upcoming birth of Chrissy’s child will separate them and she is very anxious about this.
Since childhood and teenage years, Roberta has been very hesitant of pursuing a romantic relationship. Roberta states that she believes this is because of losing her mother at a young age and never having the relationship talk. Any man who has pursued Roberta has mentioned she is too cautious to begin with, but then becomes overwhelming with her constant focus on providing for them. Roberta does not understand what these men mean and is left feeling confused at the end of her relationships. She believes putting her needs to the side and allowing their needs to be met is how a relationship lasts. Although she believes this, she has come to therapy to learn more about how to have a relationship that lasts and to possibly work through the resentment she holds towards her father for the lies he told.
Clinical Approach for Roberta
Roberta’s therapist wants to begin work by focusing on the need to take care of her father. The therapist believes Roberta’s self-esteem is dependent on her attachment to her father and thinks this may be part of the problem with her relationships (Holmes, 2001, p. 10). Instead of focusing on her own needs, Roberta is willing to put her needs to the side and put others before her. While this is a hospitable quality, it is damaging the relationships in her life because of the disappointment she ends up feeling from the other when they do not meet her needs (Costello, 2013, p. 81). One way the therapist would like to work on Roberta naming her needs is conveying the needs she hears back to Roberta. When the therapist does this, she hopes it will help Robert to feel heard and seen as she believes her father did not know how to do this for Roberta (Beebe & Lachmann, 2014, p. 89). The mirroring role of the therapist will help Roberta understand she does have needs and that her needs are valuable.
Along with working on the acknowledgement of Roberta’s needs, the therapist would also like to work on breaking Roberta’s fear of inconsistency from those whom are important to her. Roberta’s therapist believes this fear arises out of her separation-anxiety which has been present since her mother’s death. For Roberta, she believes her mother’s death no longer impacts her today; it is just a part of her life story. The therapist, on the other hand, believes her mother’s death continues to impact her today. Roberta never leaves her house without grabbing a picture of her mother and takes it with her everywhere she goes. The therapist would like Roberta to talk about the feelings and memories of her mother’s death and her need to carry her around every day.
By doing this, the therapist hopes Roberta will begin to understand the fear and anxiety that is arising from her best friend’s upcoming birth (Sable, 2012, p. 101). Chrissy has provided the secure base that Roberta desired from her father and mother and has been a place of safety for her. The goal of Roberta’s therapist is not to take this away from her, but to help her see that she can still have a secure base with Chrissy as well as others. With some education about secure attachments, the therapist believes Roberta can use her relationship with Chrissy to help build other secure relationships in her life.
Following this educational teaching about attachment styles, the therapist would like to move into more exploration of Roberta’s attachment style with her father. Roberta’s therapist believes her anxious attachment style is because of the relationship with her father. Roberta has expressed how she has been angry at her father for the lie he told when she was younger about her mother’s death and this comes up frequently in the counseling sessions. The therapist believes it will be healing for Roberta to fully express the anger and hurt she feels for the lie he told years ago. By allowing her space to communicate, the therapist believes Roberta will be able to allow her feelings to be felt and hopes to communicate that she understands her feelings.
Being a doctor herself, Roberta approaches many sessions believing in the value of therapy and ready to accept each task asked of her. While this seems genuine to an extent, the therapist believes this is just a mask for her anxiety in the sessions (Holmes, 2001, p. 17). The therapist would like to help Roberta truly desire to invest herself into the counseling relationship (Holmes, 2001, p. 17). She wants Roberta to be able to know that there will be space for rupture and repair, that she herself believes Roberta can create secure relationships, and that she is also committed to the therapeutic relationship (Holmes, 2001, p. 17). If Roberta can come to the decision to pursue therapy because she believes she truly needs it and has a desire to build secure relationships, then the therapist and she will be able to work together to improve her relationships.