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I have experience of running Kim Goldings 6 week ‘Foundation for Attachment’ groupwork programme which is for parents/carers of children with relationship difficulties. It is especially suitable for children who have experienced attachment problems, trauma, loss and/or separation early in their life: or for parents who are having parenting challenges and who would benefit from help to emotionally connect with their children.


This is a DDP informed programme based upon the Dyadic Developmental Practice model developed by Dan Hughes (2009, 2011). It introduces parents to four significant challenges of parenting children whose capacity to emotionally connect with parents has been compromised.


These are:

The programme is designed around three modules of two sessions per module.

This can be delivered in 6 half days (3 hours, including a break) or 3 full days.


Module One: Understanding Challenges of Parenting


This module introduces group members to the challenges often associated with parenting children with attachment difficulties and links this to attachment theory, an understanding of the theory of intersubjectivity, and the impact of trauma upon development. Throughout these two sessions thought will be given to the implications of parenting children who experience these difficulties.


Session One:  Blocked Relationships:



         • Understanding challenges of parenting

         • Understanding the complexity of the children  

           (by developmental stage eg: adolescence or by population eg adopted)

         • Reflecting on child or young person


Exploring Blocked Trust

         • Year 1, Development of Trust

         • Year 2, Socialization

         • Mistrust: Losing Capacity for Comfort, Curiosity or Joy

         • Parenting: Building Trust Whilst Providing Discipline, Structure and Supervision


Loss of Intersubjectivity

         • Understanding Early Experience of Loss and Trauma

         • Fear of Reciprocity and Need for Control; Influence without being Influenced

         • Impact on Parental Reciprocity – Need to Withdraw

         • Parenting: Help Child to Feel Effective Influencing and Safe Being Influenced



Session Two:  Hiding and Miscuing:


Understanding Shame

          Development of a Sense of Shame

          How Shame Becomes Toxic  

          Lost in Shame; Unable to Experience Guilt, Remorse or Repair

         • Parenting: Regulating Shame and Repairing Relationships


Understanding Hidden and Expressed Attachment Needs

         Introduction to Attachment Theory

         Patterns of Attachment: How Needs become Expressed and Hidden

         • Parenting: Meeting Expressed Needs and Gently Challenging Hidden Needs

Module Two: Understanding Challenges of Parenting


Module two explores DDP informed therapeutic parenting. This is based upon the Dyadic Developmental Practice model developed by Dan Hughes, which pays special attention to the parenting attitude of PACE (Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy).This requires the capacity to mentalize; to be mind-minded. The parent strives to understand without judging the internal experience of the child. Group members are encouraged to explore how to be less defensive and to stay open and engaged to the children so that they can connect emotionally with them. They additionally explore how to maintain this connection whilst also providing structure, supervision and discipline in order to manage behaviour.

Session One:  Building Connections:


         • Enhancing Reflective Function and Mentalization by Being Mind-minded

         • Staying Open and Engaged  

         • Noticing when becoming Defensive

         • Using an Attitude of PACE


Session Two:  Managing Behaviour:


          Traditional behaviour management and its disadvantages for relationally insecure children.

          Bringing in PACE  

          Two Hands of Parenting

          Connection Before Correction

          Importance of Repair

          Parenting in the Moment

         Bringing it all together in 7 steps

Module Three: Looking After Self


Module three moves the focus away from the child towards the parents looking after themselves. Whilst in some ways it would make sense to begin with this module it is felt that the first two modules will provide a sense of safety for the group members, allowing them to feel comfortable doing the self-reflection required in the final module. Additionally group members will understand the importance for this as they realize the complexity of caring for children with attachment difficulties. This module explores the impact of own attachment history when parenting the children and helps group members to consider their own histories and identify their own strengths and vulnerabilities. The idea of blocked care (Hughes & Baylin, 2012) will then be introduced and group members will explore how to recognise when they are experiencing blocked care and ways to unblock their care.

Session One:  Understanding Attachment History:


         • Reflecting on Early Relationship Experience

         • Noticing Resilience  

         • Where are you Vulnerable

         • Moving from Defensive to Open and Engaged


Session Two:  Blocked Care:


          What is Blocked Care?

          Notice when Moving into Blocked Care  

          Preventing and moving out of Blocked Care

1. The child experiencing blocked trust.

2. The child fearing intersubjective connection within reciprocal relationships

3. The child experiencing high levels of shame

4. The child miscuing their attachment needs through a pattern of expressed and hidden needs.


Parents and carers will:

1. Gain an understanding of these challenges and explore ways of building emotional connections with the children which can increase trust in reciprocal and attachment relationships leading to increased attachment security and reduced levels of shame.

2. Understand how to provide support for behaviour alongside building these connections. This has been termed ‘connection with correction’ by Dan Hughes (2009).

3. Explore the dangers of blocked care when caring for children with blocked trust and understand the importance of looking after yourself..

4. Understand the significance of exploring your own attachment history when caring for children with  attachment difficulties.

The programme has been developed around the Foundations for Attachment model.

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Understanding The Challenges Of Parenting

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