Case Study

Tayib, who is 29 years old, works as a paralegal in a public defender’s office. His parents came to the United States from India before he was born. Tayib’s extended family in India are highly educated people, and his parents encouraged him to get a good education as well. Although he considered going to law school, Tayib never felt confident enough to pursue this goal. In his current place of employment, many coworkers rely on his conscientiousness. He feels that others, including his superiors, often take advantage of him by giving him the most difficult cases to sort out and the shortest deadlines for getting them done. He was recently passed over for a promotion by his boss, who decided to fill the higher level post by hiring someone from outside the department. He feels unsatisfied in his position, but he thinks that his chances for advancement may be best if he remains in civil service. His parents encourage him to find a position with more prestige and a better income.

Tayib has been dating Rachael, a 27-year-old White woman with a young son, for the past 6 months. Rachael works as a public relations executive in one of the corporate offices in the city. Rachael and her son, Luke, share an apartment with one of Rachael’s girlfriends. This has been her living arrangement since the breakup of her relationship with Luke’s father, Kevin, 3 years ago. The couple were never married, a factor that led to strained relationships with her own mother and father.

Tayib and Rachael are both interested in finding someone with whom they can have a serious relationship. Lately, however, their relationship has not been going as smoothly as it did in the beginning. As Luke’s fourth birthday approached, Rachael wanted to plan a celebration for him. Tayib had already taken Luke and Rachael to an amusement park as a birthday present for the youngster. Rachael decided to have a special birthday dinner for Luke and invited her parents and Tayib. Tayib, in the midst of an important project at work, declined the invitation.

Rachael feels totally rejected by his refusal to attend the dinner. She cannot understand why she and Luke mean so little to Tayib. She believes that she does everything she possibly can in order to keep Tayib interested in her. She prepares meals for him, works on her appearance, listens to him talk about problems at work, calls him to let him know she cares about him, and tries to accommodate her schedule to his. She wonders now if she will ever find someone who wants to make a commitment to her. Tayib can’t understand why Rachael is so upset about the dinner. Since she is a working woman with a child to support, he feels that she should understand how important it is to have and keep a job. Tayib begins to wonder if she really understands what is important to him. Although the two do not discuss this incident directly, they both feel tension growing in the relationship.


  1. 2. Attachment theory provides one framework for conceptualizing adult intimacy. It suggests that early bonds with caregivers could have a bearing on relationship building in adulthood and that intimate adult relationships provide some of the same benefits as infant–adult relationships: a secure base, safe haven, and emotional warmth.
  2. 3. Two traditions or lines of inquiry characterize adult attachment research: the nuclear family tradition, exploring how early attachments might affect the quality of caregiving that an adult gives his own children, and the peer/romantic partner tradition, which focuses on the peer attachments of adults.
  3. 4. The Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) consists of questions about early memories of relationships with parents. Autonomous (secure) adults provide a coherent, collaborative narrative, acknowledging the importance of attachment-related experiences in their development. Individuals described as earned secure appear to have come to terms with painful backgrounds. They reflect on their past realistically, acknowledging their parents’ perspective. Autonomous adults tend to have securely attached children.
  4. 5. Dismissing (insecure) adults describe parents positively but provide either no evidence or contradictory evidence. Generally, they downplay the importance of early relationships. Their children tend to form avoidant attachments.
  5. 6. Preoccupied (insecure) individuals provide long, incoherent, egocentric monologues. They seem overwhelmed by the interview questions and are often angry, sad, or fearful. They seem preoccupied with parents, who are remembered as intrusive or egocentric. Their children often have anxious-ambivalent attachments.
  • 9. AAI narratives are different from other interview narratives with the same interviewees, suggesting that the AAI specifically reflects a person’s state of mind regarding interpersonal representations. This working model of attachments is assumed to be a schema that has evolved with time and experience and that serves as a guide for understanding, predicting, and acting.
  • 10. Adult pair-bonds integrate three basic behavioral systems: caregiving, attachment, and sexual mating. The attachment system involves proximity seeking and separation distress and serves safe haven and secure base functions. Attachment functions gradually transfer from parents to peers and, eventually, to romantic partners. Proximity seeking begins to shift as early as the preschool years. Between 8 and 14 years, peers also provide safe haven. Eventually attachments to romantic partners involve proximity seeking and separation distress, and they also serve safe haven and secure base functions.
  • 11. The measurement procedures and typologies in the peer/romantic relationship tradition have been different from those in the nuclear family tradition. Several typologies have been proposed, and in the most recent work it is suggested that people may be better characterized as differing along two continuous dimensions, one having to do with their degree of anxiety about close relationships and the other with their approach-avoidance tendencies. It appears to require about 2 years for a romantic relationship to serve all 4 attachment functions.
  • 12. Partner selection can be predicted to some degree by the attachment characteristics of the partners. Although at zero acquaintance, people expect to be attracted to people with similar attachment styles, actual pairings are somewhat different. Secure individuals do tend to pair with secure partners, but anxious individuals are more likely to pair with avoidant than with anxious partners; avoidant-avoidant pairs are also uncommon. Whether individuals always enter relationships with these characteristics or sometimes evolve these styles within their relationships has not been determined.
  • 13. Partnerships between secure individuals seem to involve more positive and less negative emotions than other pairings. Male avoidant individuals show less distress during breakups than other males, but females of all attachment types show similar levels of distress. Anxious partners are most stressed by conflict within a relationship.
  • 14. Many young adults participate in casual sex, encounters outside of romantic relationships. The effects of casual sexual experiences on the formation of long-term relationships are unknown, but they do not seem to affect the widespread intention of young adults to form committed relationships and to marry.
  • 15. Attachment style is related to the likelihood and frequency of casual sex. For example, it is more common among avoidant men and anxious women.


  1. 16. In Holland’s theory of career development, people are categorized as having one of six modal personal orientations or personal styles, part of their personality. Jobs or careers make demands that are compatible with one or more of these orientations. A good fit (convergence) between modal orientation and job characteristics benefits job satisfaction and feelings of well-being.
  2. 17. In Super’s theory, the focus is on the development of a vocational self-concept, part of one’s total identity. He describes five stages in its development, from the growth stage in early childhood through the decline stage in people of retirement age. Super emphasizes that career development is a continuing, lifelong process. Many career counseling approaches emphasize the important relationship between career and self-development, with self-discovery an important ingredient in career satisfaction.
  3. 21. Traditionally, women with careers have followed different career paths from men. Substantial changes have occurred, such as women outnumbering men in college. But there are still gender differences: Some careers are still highly gendered, and women are still more likely to consider the impact of career choices on their relationship opportunities and future child rearing responsibilities, although men are increasingly attending to such concerns as well.
  4. 22. Self-concept and self-understanding are central features of many theories of career development. How do basic feelings and attitudes towards the self as a worker develop? Erikson describes a sense of industry, belief in one’s ability to work productively and expectation of satisfaction from work, as beginning in middle childhood, when children have their first work experiences. Generativity becomes important in adulthood, as people become motivated to leave a legacy for the next generation.
  5. 23. Bandura has studied self-efficacy, beliefs in one’s own ability to affect events, as motivating people to work hard and persevere even in the face of failure. Such beliefs are correlated with high levels of achievement.
  6. 24. Mastery orientation is similar to self-efficacy and to a sense of industry. Mastery-oriented individuals move forward even when they fail, apparently because they are “growth” theorists, believing that hard work and instruction can affect ability. Conversely, people who show a helplessness pattern, who give up when they fail, tend to be “ability” theorists, seeing ability as fixed.
  7. 25. Differences in self-efficacy beliefs, or mastery orientation, may have significant effects on minority groups and women. Stereotype threat, the fear that an inferiority stereotype might be true, can influence achievement. In some research, stereotype threat has been reduced and achievement improved when individuals have received intensive training on the scientific evidence for the malleability of intelligence and ability.

Intervention Processes

Attachment in Counseling Contexts

The major theoretical tenets of attachment theory and their extensions to adult pair-bonds have implications for individual, marital, and family therapies in some of the following ways. For helpers who utilize an attachment perspective, the therapeutic bond is the primary mechanism of change. The therapist functions as the secure base, provides the client with appropriate responsiveness and availability, and offers opportunities to explore models of self and others. Traditional views of therapy have long held that early attachment patterns carry over into therapeutic relationships (transference) and that therapy provides a chance for a corrective experience (Alexander & French, 1946). The way to revise insecure internal models, according to Bowlby (1988), is through the power of another, more secure and more responsive, base. In a review of attachment-based therapies, Berry and Danquah (2016) delineate the working-alliance features that demonstrate client-therapist attachment and permit a corrective experience. Clients often view therapists as wiser and more knowing than themselves; seek proximity in regularly scheduled contacts; experience the therapeutic relationship as a secure base to return to when stress occurs in their lives; and report separation anxiety with breaks in contact (e.g., vacation) and eventual termination. Effective attachment-based therapies can help clients move towards greater attachment security (Taylor, Rietzschel, Danquah, & Berry, 2015). If handled competently by the therapist, pre-existing issues of loss, separation, lack of connectedness to others, and maladaptive stress response patterns, which emerge as treatment progresses, can be processed within the therapeutic context to help clients revise their early, dysfunctional patterns of relating.

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