By Samantha Clopper
The importance of attachment and connection, to me as a therapist, cannot be overstated. It is at the foundation of all my work regardless of the presenting problem or type of therapy I am providing. The relationship and connection is key!
Interestingly enough, I did not become drawn to the importance of attachment and connection by watching people. Rather, my interest grew by watching my Siberian husky, Kody, engage, love, and teach kiddos in schools. As a team, Kody and I provided Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) to students who struggled with anger, depression, and social anxiety. His natural ability to form attachment and connection with kiddos with a warm greeting, face snuggle, and a puppy kiss was astonishing. While it was often reported that these kiddos were challenging to connect with and understand, by following Kody’s example I was able engage and get to know each kiddo we worked with. Much like my therapy pup had, I poured all my energy into creating positive and safe connections/relationships with each kiddo instead of focusing on changing behaviors or feelings. The kiddos we worked with learned and understood what it meant to have unconditional positive regard, support, and love and through this connection we found their behavior and ability to cope with feelings in school improved... and I was hooked!
Since working as an AAT team, I have grown passionate about studying and understanding the importance of connection and attachment in all people. At the core, what I have learned is that we are hardwired for connection and attachment. As humans, we have an inescapable need to be connected to one another and in fact, neuroscience has shown that from the very moment we are born our brains and bodies are already hardwired for human connection. The cues for positive attachment are built into the most primitive parts of brain (the limbic system) and are accessible before we even know how to walk or talk. Connection is as basic of a need as food, water, and shelter and without social groups and connection we would not survive or thrive. Generally speaking, when are brains function and interact in the way that they are hardwired (for connection), research shows that people live happier, healthier, and more fulfilled in lives.
This knowledge has not only changed the way I practice as a therapist, but how I live my life. I am honored by the openness and connection that each person I work with brings into my office and consider the power of connection my most impactful and authentic tool. After all, “We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what give purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering”- Brene Brown
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