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Stories with a Purpose: Family Attachment Narrative Therapy


Stories with a Purpose: Family Attachment Narrative Therapy Melissa Nichols, MA, LMFT * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * FANT: The Importance of the Narrative ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Stories with a Purpose: Family Attachment Narrative Therapy

Stories with a Purpose Family Attachment
Narrative Therapy
Melissa Nichols, MA, LMFT
FANT The Importance of the Narrative
The ability to use narratives or stories to
describe an experience, contemplate a scenario
and plan for the future is a unique quality of
the human race. It is through stories that
children learn cultural roles and expectations
and the meaning of concepts such as love, good
and evil, freedom and truth. As the child
develops the capacity for language and beings to
share thoughts and feelings with the parent, a
common perspective is shared and internalized.
This is the perspective that is retold in story
form with others and with self. When this
process does not take place, behavior tends to be
instinctive, impulsive and imitative. Although
thoughts are not always predictive of behavior,
the way we think is reflective in out action.
We are what we think. All that we are arises
with our thoughts, with our thoughts (stories)
we make the world. Dhammapada (Buddhist
Observation) Beware of the stories you tell
yourself For you will surely live them Cultural
Tales George Howard (1991) For as a man
thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 237
NKJV Bible

FANT Theoretical Basis
  • Theory
  • Attachment disordered children have a
    self-defeating internal working model
  • Problem behavior is often a reflection of this
    internal perspective
  • This destructive perspective can be permanently
    shifted and healed
  • The positive emotional connection (attunement)
    between a parent/child is innate and does not
    have to be taught.

FANT Theoretical Basis
  • Methodology
  • Parents tell all the narratives
  • Parents do all of the nurturing holding
  • Holding is NOT used to work through intense
  • Intense emotions are addressed with EMDR

FANT Theoretical Basis
  • Narrative Themes
  • Attachment bonding
  • Trauma history
  • Behavior change

Attachment Program
  • Diagnostic Interview
  • Assessment
  • Data Past Evaluations, Records, etc.
  • Observational
  • Staff Coordination

Attachment Program
  • Intensive Structure
  • Lead Therapist/Play Therapist
  • Time length frequency
  • Assessments
  • Attachment Worksheet recommendations
  • Final Report
  • Follow-up Assessments

Activating Parental Attunement
  • Rather than assuming the role as expert, the task
    of the therapist is to facilitate the parents
    innate ability to attune to their childs
    internal process. This means that the therapist
    elevates the parent to the status of expert in
    identifying components of their childs
    perspective or internal working model. This
    process begins as the therapist employs an
    affirming, inquiring, questioning method of
    eliciting the parents intuitive knowledge of the
    childs motivating thoughts and emotions.

Activating Parental Attunement
  • Parents experience
  • Childs background
  • What would your child be like if you had started
    out together?
  • Childs thoughts and feelings

  • Shifting
  • Inner Working Model
  • with Narratives

Why Do Stories Work?
  • Stories are culturally universal and timeless
  • Organizes memories and gives meaning to life
    (coherent narrative)
  • Stories promote neural integration of thinking
    and feeling
  • Stories channel a different perspective of life
    events--Change the story, change self

Constructing Stories
  • Setting
  • Props
  • Perspective
  • Hero
  • Message

Types of Narratives
  • Claiming
  • Developmental
  • Trauma
  • Successful Child

Claiming Narratives
  • Strengthens emotional bond
  • Facilitates trust
  • Establishes birth order
  • Extended family
  • Passes on traditions, history, rituals

Developmental Narratives
  • Facilitates cognitive development
  • Enhances emotional regulation
  • Builds relationships
  • Remedial skill building

Narrative Themes
  • From the first, you were a child that deserved to
    be loved and cared for by parents you could trust.

Trauma Narratives
  • Heals pain of trauma
  • Creates empathy
  • Fosters understanding

Narrative Themes
  • Even though you experienced abuse, abandonment,
    neglect, you deserved to be loved and cared for
    by responsible parents.

Successful Child Narratives
  • Teaches values
  • Reinforces cause and effect thinking
  • Presents alternative behaviors
  • Explains basics of How To Do life

Narrative Themes
  • Your problem behavior does not define your value
    and we will be there to love and support you as
    you make changes.

Additional Resources
  • Parenting with Stories Creating a foundation of
    attachment for parenting your child (Nichols,
    Lacher May, 2002)
  • Connecting with Kids (Lacher, Nichols, May,
  • First Steps for Strengthening Adoptive Families
    (DVD Study Guide)
  • Website

Supporting Research
  • Bower, G.H. Morrow, D. G. (1990). Mental
    Models in Narrative Comprehension. Hillsdale,
  • NJ Lawrence-Erlbaum.
  • In order to make sense of a narrative or story,
    there must be an identification with a
    protagonist which allows a here and now
    perspective to be adopted. In doing so, the
    narrative has the capacity to travel back and
    forward in time and space, thus allowing the
    message to become immediately relevant.
  • Charon, J.M. (1985). Symbolic Interactionism
    An Introduction, Interpretation, and Integration.
    Englewood Cliffs, NJ Prentice-Hall.
  • The process of verbally interacting with self and
    others is essential in the development of the
    ability to evaluate present behavior and plan for
    change in the future.
  • Osofsky, J.D. (1993). Applied Psychoanalysis
    How research with infants and adolescents at
    high psychosocial risk informs psychoanalysis.
    Journal of American Psychoanalytic Association,
    41, 193-207.
  • The inability to form a coherent strategy to
    ensure protection from the caregiver has been
    identified in the narratives of maltreated
    children. Children exposed to disruption and
    family violence typically construct an
    incoherent, chaotic life narrative.
  • Pynoos, R.S., Steinberg, A.M., Goenjian, A.
    (1996). Tramatic Stress in Childhood and
    Adolescence Recent Developments and Current
    Controversies. In B.A. van der Kolk A.C.
    McFarlane (Eds.) Traumatic Stress (pp. 331-358).
    New York Guilford Press.
  • When faced with a frightening situation, the
    inability to contemplate a solution seems to
    retard developmental accomplishments and
    interfere with successful processing of
    subsequent traumatic events.

Supporting Research
  • Siegel, D.J. (1999). The Developing Mind toward
    a Neurobiology of Interpersonal Experience. New
    York Guilford Press.
  • Parent-child reflective dialogue that identifies
    the mental state that fuels behavior,
    perceptions, intentions, goals, beliefs and
    desires seem to promote both secure attachment
    and the integrative process of co-construction of
  • Solomon, J. George, C., DeJong, A. (1995).
    Children Classified as Controlling at Age Six
    Evidence of Disorganized Representational
    Strategies and Aggression at Home and School.
    Development and Psychopathology. 7, 447-464.
  • Securely attached children typically tell stories
    in which the child protagonist struggles, finds a
    solution and ultimately lives happily ever after.
  • Zwaan, R. A. (1999). Situation Models The
    mental Leap into Imagined Worlds. Current
    Directions in Psychological Science, 8, 15-18.
  • The experience of narrative is the same as being
    in or observing the real situation.
  • The Innate Quality of Attunement
  • George, C. Solomon, J. (1999). Attachment and
    Caregiving The Caregiving Behavioral System. In
    J. Cassidy P. Shaver (Eds.) Handbook of
    Attachment Theory, Research and Clinical
    Applications (pp. 649-670). New York Guilford
  • In order to ensure survival, the parent is
    biologically driven to provide care and
    protection in the same way the child seeks
    proximity in order to be cared for and protected
    by the caregiver. Just as the infant is
    physiologically comforted when the parent is
    available, the mother experiences strong emotions
    of pleasure and satisfaction when she is able to
    provide protection and heightened anger, sadness
    or despair when her ability to be available to
    her child is threatened.

Supporting Research
  • Support
  • Crockenberg, S.B. Infant Irritability, Mother
    responsiveness, and Social Support Influences on
    Security of Infant-Mother Attachment. Child
    Development 52, 857-865.
  • FANT
  • May, J.C. (2005). Family Attachment Narrative
    Therapy Healing the Experience of Early
    Childhood Maltreatment. Journal of Marital and
    Family Therapy, 31, 221-237.
  • Parenting Resources
  • Bailey, B.A. (2000). I Love You Rituals. New
    York Harper.
  • Glasser, H. N. Easley, J.L. (1999).
    Transforming the Difficult Child The Nurtured
    Heart Approach. Tucson, AZ Center for the
    Difficult Child.
  • Jernberg, A.M. Booth, P.B. (1997). Theraplay
    Helping Parents and Children Build Better
    Relationships Through Attachment Based Play (2nd
    ed.) San Francisco Jossey Bass.
  • Kranowitz, C.S. Miller, L.J. (2006). Out of
    Sync Child Recognizing and Coping with Sensory
    Processing Disorder. New York Perigree.
  • Nelson, J. (2006). Positive Discipline . New
    York Ballantine.

  • Family Attachment Center
  • 18322C Minnetonka Blvd
  • Deephaven, MN 55391
  • 952-475-2818