Agency in relationships: The concurrent development of the individual and their attachment relationships
Abstract: Psychotherapy literature tends to deal with agency in passing or leaves it undefined. Attachment literature places agency in a relational context, but primarily refers to infant development. In this article, Geoff Fitzgerald proposes that agency should be expanded from an individual to a relational conceptualisation. He argues that agency in relationships is fostered in a developmental arc that spans attachment relationships, as well as general relationships and activities. Progress in one relationship realm is entwined with progress in the other. ‘Agency in relationships’ is described as a person’s effectiveness in getting their needs met within the milieu of relationships that make their social world. Six developmental markers that indicate the attainment of agency in relationships are outlined, and serve as a guide for client development and the therapeutic process. Discussion of these ideas draws on psychotherapy research and several contemporary approaches to psychotherapy with an emphasis on attachment literature. A case example is used to illustrate these factors. Broader implications for the process of psychotherapy are discussed.
Abstract: In contrast to attempts to blend attachment ideas into a single unified therapy, Geoff Fitzgerald has drawn upon attachment research, theory and practice to identify four dimensions of therapeutic practice within which attachment ideas can be organised as the cornerstones of an attachment oriented psychotherapeutic practice. While attachment theory and practice does not hold an exclusive claim on any of these dimensions, it offers a unique contribution to understanding and applying them. By holding all four dimensions in mind when working with clients, practitioners can access and implement the depth and breadth of attachment theory and practice. A case study is used to illustrate these four dimensions. Several therapy models based on attachment theory are reviewed to consider how they illustrate and express these dimensions of attachment practice; schema therapy, brief dynamic interpersonal therapy, mentalization based therapy, emotionally focused couple therapy, and attachment-based family therapy.