Ideal Parent Figure
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Integrative Attachment Therapy (IAT)


“Co-created secure attachment imagery allows for the patient to experience caregivers in ways that a therapist cannot be expected to provide.”

– Dr David Elliott, co-author of the acclaimed text book, Attachment Disturbances in Adults

“All treatments for adult attachment insecurity include in some form a set of principles and methods that can be termed therapist-as-good-attachment-figure. This relational context is widely and appropriately accepted as a foundation for any attachment-focused therapy. We are offering a therapeutic model with the Three Pillars, that includes using patient-and-therapist co-created imagery of positive attachment experiences rooted in the 5 qualities of secure attachment. This imagery method is intrapersonal, in that it focuses on the patient’s inner experience of mental representations of attachment relationships; it is inter- personal, in that the process calls upon the therapist to be highly attuned, collaborative and responsive— as a good attachment figure—to the patient experiencing the imagery; and it is meta- interpersonal, in that the patient experiences the imagined interaction with the positive attachment relationships in the context of the therapist supporting and participating in the process. The use of imagery in this way can be a valuable contribution towards relational healing and adult earned secure attachment.”

  – ATTACHMENT: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, Vol. 15, June 2021: pp. 36–55.

If you are someone who likes to read the message boards and blogs, you have likely heard about Attachment work, and specifically the Ideal Parent Figure (IPF) method.

So what is all of this noise on the message boards, Reddit, social media, etc about?  

Ideal Parent Figure (IPF) imagery has a wide range of applicability within the context of the Three Pillars psychotherapeutic model. It is a psychotherapeutic tool which requires a high level of clinical training.  It is also a tool that is used within a larger psychotherapeutic process, where collaborative skills and Mentalization-Based Therapy (Fonagy) are also components.  This makes up the “Three Pillars” model that has become widely known due to its efficacy.  
***As a side note, there is a portion of individuals who learned “IPF” as a guided meditation technique and continue to promote it as such; leading to a great deal of confusion for the general public.   Clinical training is necessary to deal with countertransference (our own issues as therapists), to repair ruptures when they occur (which are bound to happen), to discern the difference between dissociation and hypnotic states, to be able to hold traumatic memories without becoming embedded, to have a myriad of other tools like CBT, psychodynamic therapy, Motivational Interviewing, crisis de-escalation, suicide assessments and safety plans.  These are all aspects that are going to eventually be brought up in the treatment and this is far out of the clinical scope of someone who has not been trained in this.  And while learning IPF as a “technique” or “meditation” might be valuable for some who already test in the securely attached range, it is not what the treatment was meant for and has the very real potential to create further disorganization, depending on the severity of the attachment disturbance.
This model is based in hundreds of years of clinical research indicating that what accounts for the most variance in treatment outcomes is the relationship between patient and therapist.  In other words, the collaboration (new 1st pillar).  To deprive the patient of a therapeutic relationship by simply teaching a technique or calling IPF a meditation is actually neglecting the single factor that leads to the most change in an individual.  It takes years of training and education and practice to learn how to deal with rupture, dissociation, and other things that arise in sessions.  That’s what the ethical standards are there for.
We at the Adult Attachment Program are driven by research and evidence. We know that Three Pillars Therapy, of which IPF is a component, is a pyschotherapeutic intervention. It is a clinical treatment, that brings up notions of trauma, abuse, loss, and neglect.
We have fully trained psychologists, therapists, and coaches, competent in the Ideal Parent Figure protocol and Three Pillars therapy. Designed by Dr. Daniel Brown and his colleagues, IPF specifically addresses unhealthy patterns in relationships and attachment due to developing insecure attachment styles as children.
We have found that when clients address their insecure attachment style, they also experience a new coherence of mind, where they are able to discuss attachment themes in their life without becoming dysregulated. Due to this new clarity, new possibilities will open up to you in relationships and in your life that you never knew were there. With a skilled therapist, you will use your own imagination to design your own ideal parents, completely different than your parents of origin. Then, using these Ideal Parent Figures, your therapist will guide you through co-created imagery that will shape and reshape your “internal working model” of attachment. If this work interests you and you’d like to schedule an appointment, or if you’d simply like some more information on this treatment, please contact us.
For clinicians who have some knowledge of attachment theory and wish to further their knowledge have the opportunity to learn and refine their skills at the Adult Attachment Program.  Since May, 2023, Dr. Zack has taught a Three Pillars Therapy case consultation and supervision masterclass.  Dr. David Elliott, the co-author of the acclaimed, “Treatment Attachment Disturbances in Adults,” has given Zack his support to teach others and provide peer groups for clinicians and others in the helping fields who wish to use this amazing method.  Dr. Zack also has recently begun to offer individual supervision for clinicians using the 3-pillars model.  Reach out to inquire further if interested.

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