Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work

First Advisor

Sharon Patten

Second Advisor

Anthony Bibus

Third Advisor

Jacqueline R Fendler


Mental health professionals who work with adults typically encounter clients who have issues left over from childhood. This paper discusses the Attachment Theory first conceptualized by John Bowlby and the therapeutic implications with adults concerning attachment theory based on psychoanalytic-object relations theory. Understanding and emphasizing the importance of affectional bonds with caring others is an essential part of treating adult clients with attachment issues. The purpose of this study is to define the nature of the therapeutic relationship between client and clinician to identify therapeutic strategies that create a safe place for adult clients to explore issues of attachment, separation and loss. One hundred and twenty-five social workers who are in membership of the Minnesota Society of Clinical Social Workers were surveyed concerning therapeutic strategies, practices and techniques used to treat adults who present with attachment difficulties. 19 of the 125 surveys were returned representing a total response rate of 15 percent. Only 14 of which were returned completed, thus giving an overall usable response rate of 11 percent. From the data, many of the respondents indicated that exploring the client's early object relations with his/her primary caregiver to be an important consideration when measuring the client's personality dysfunction and emotional maturity. According to the data Psychoanalytic, Psychodynamics and Object relations theories were the primary theoretical frameworks respondents used while working with adult clients who present with attachment issues. The concepts of transference and countertransference played an integral part in the therapeutic process when working with adult clients who have experienced attachment difficulties as children. Treatment practices concerning attachment dysfunction need to become standardized methods of treatment. In order to standardize treatment practices, more research needs to be conducted on a larger scale to increase awareness regarding therapeutic techniques, strategies and practices governing treatment with clients who have experienced attachment difficulties.


SC 11.MSW.1999.Ockwig.AG

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Social Work Commons