Are you aware of the impact of early relationships on student behaviour? In this Essentials episode, we sit down with attachment specialist and author Catherine Young, to explore the profound impact of attachment on children's lives and learning.
In this episode, you'll learn practical strategies for helping children develop secure attachments. and insights about the pivotal role teachers play in fostering secure attachments and promoting healthy emotional development.
Click here for the full interview from episode 8.
M-MAT Attachment Therapy website: https://www.m-mat.org/
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Show notes / transcription
Catherine Young 0:00
In M-MAT, we, especially with the attachment based play, we kind of go back a little bit a child's allowed to regress and go to that place where that injury is in play is based on the earliest interactions between parents and children where you know, you make silly noises, and the child responds everything from peekaboo to silly singing games, and clapping games, those kinds of things that involve touch or eye contact, or rhythm. Those are all some of the first kinds of interactions we have with our infants. And so every session starts at the beginning with that attachment based play, there's a lot of healing there, and then we may move on later in the session to the top part. We may be working on skills building or looking at sort of restoring for the child how they're viewing relationships, but that attachment base plays really a critical piece of the M-MAT model.
Simon Currigan 0:46
Welcome to the school behaviour secrets podcast. I'm your host, Simon Currigan. My co host is Emma Shackleton and we're obsessed with helping teachers, school leaders, parents, and of course, students. When classroom behaviour gets in the way of success. We're going to share the tried and tested secrets to classroom management, behavioural Special Needs whole school strategy and more all with the aim of helping your students reach their true potential plus, we will be letting you eavesdrop on our conversations with thought leaders from around the world. So you will get to hear their latest evidence based strategies before anyone else. This is the school behaviour secrets podcast.
Hi there, Simon Currigan here and welcome to another essentials episode of school behaviour secrets. In these essentials episodes, I share with you one key strategy or insight from an earlier interview episode that can help shape our understanding of child development and inform our practice to benefit the students in our schools and classrooms. In this essentials episode, I'm going to share part of my interview with Catherine Young from Episode Eight, Catherine has developed a new practical evidence based approach to helping kids where attachment or trauma is a significant driving issue. It's called M-MAT, which stands for multimodal attachment therapy. And it's primarily designed to support kids aged between five and 12. I want to pick up the interview where Catherine explains the key approaches she uses from the M-MAT model.
Now interventions for attachment issues used in school, certainly in the UK, kind of often focus on a counsellor or a mentor working alongside a child in school, teaching them kind of attachment skills, if you like in one to one sessions. But your approach works differently. Can you kind of explain how that approach works?
Catherine Young 2:36
Yeah, for sure. So by trying to teach attachment skills, you're you're trying to address the attachment style, but you're not really addressing the underlying injury in NMAT, we, especially with the attachment based play, we kind of go back a little bit a child's allowed to regress and go to that place where that injury is in play is based on the earliest interactions between parents and children where you know, you make silly noises, and the child responds everything from peekaboo to silly singing games, and clapping games, those kinds of things that involve touch or eye contact, or rhythm. Those are all some of the first kinds of interactions we have with our infants. And so every session starts at the beginning with that attachment based play, there's a lot of healing there. And then we may move on later in the session to the talk part, we may be working on skills building or looking at sort of restoring for the child, how they're viewing relationships. But that attachment base plays really a critical piece of the NMAT model. And when you're running that play, these are sessions with parents trying to help that parent, undo that damage with the child, the therapists role is to help that connection rebuild when you're working with parents. And that's always the ideal is to have a parent in the room with primary caregiver and you're working on repairing that relationship. And sometimes the parent may not be the one who damaged that relationship, it may be a relative placement, where maybe a foster adoptive placement. But nevertheless, the child is holding that image of relationship from their early relationships into this new relationship. And so it's trying to shift that for the child and to heal that the attachment based play part of the session games, like you said, like follow the leader in those kind of touch games, they're often games that traditional use of much younger children, when you have slightly older children, how do they react to those? Well, interesting, I can't tell you the number of times when I first brought parents and we've talked about this and they'll be like, oh my, my child won't do that. And a lot of attachment injured children are sort of pseudo mature again, they kind of feel like they have to make their own way in the world. And they may appear like super independent, there may be some resistance, but it really feeds an inner need for them. They're almost looking for permission to go to that younger place. I guess that makes sense because they're revisiting kind of activities that they missed out at a certain developmental stage. They need to be able to integrate with other people with their parents and with their with their peers. So it makes sense that it would enjoy that because it would help them start to make sense of the world.
Simon Currigan 4:59
So how did your parents react?
Catherine Young 5:01
Well, that's a very interesting question. They actually enjoy it as well. And the fun part about it for the therapist is that you're engaging in this to your you're modelling, you're providing sort of a buffer between parent and child, if there's been a lot of conflict, and you just make it fun, you laugh, you play you giggle, you'd be silly. Sometimes the parent themselves, it's healing for them, even though that's not the target. So that's the first part of a parent child Emmaus session, there's some attachment based play, the next part of the session is a bit more challenging. That's attachment talk, can you sort of talk us through what happens in that kind of middle part of the session, the first time you do the actual talk piece with the parent and child, you do what I call the story of love, this is a really simple, easy intervention, that just kind of you're setting the tone, the therapy is where you talk to the parent and the child's in the room. But the child's listening, these children are very hyper vigilant. They're listening to everything that's going on. And if you ask the parent tell me, I'm really curious. Do you remember the very first time you felt love for him, and then the parent then you know, responds, whatever is appropriate, baby, first time I saw their face, or it may be an adoptive parent or a relative caregiver, you're basically trying to create a new storyline in the attachment talk part. And this is kind of the first part of doing that. So you know, then you go well, okay, so I get that, you know, when babies are so cute, aren't they? You know, but what about like, if it's a toddler, you know, toddlers, they get into everything. They're kind of, they're active, they're all over the place. Did you still love them then? And then, of course, the parent responds, and then you move on to you know, well, how about you know, now He's seven years old. Now, you know, do you still love them, man? And you know, you just be curious and kind of playful with it. But then you want to project it into the future? Well, you know, but when he's a teenager, you know, he might decide to cut his hair funny or strange clothes. Do you think you'll love him then? And so you move it into the future? You know, what, what about when he's an adult, he won't be your little baby anymore in the bit the parents on his Oh, well, he's always my bit. Maybe someday he'll decide to have kids what if he has kids, those kids would be your grandchildren. And so you just are kind of creating the story of okay, this is this love is forever. That's all you do your first talk session you have, the next step in the talk portion is to do what we call the attachment narrative. And this is where you're really helping the child restore their life. And you start with the child's birth, and you have the again, the parent and the child in the session, this actually works really well for teens as well, you start with where were you born and the child contributes as much as they can, if they don't contribute anything, that's fine, too, you get the information from the parent, you just start talking about their life, and you start with from when they were born, were they born in a hospital, who they go home with, you go through and their strategies in the book for how to help that story become a healthy, adaptive story, as opposed to a story of, Oh, I was hurt, and I'm bad, you really want to change the story to oh, something's happened. And I'm okay. And like I said in the book, there's a lot of different strategies for doing that.
Simon Currigan 7:49
When I looked through the book, I mean, there are lots of practical strategies in there. And basically, it seems to be you're leading the child on kind of a journey from I am not safe towards I am safe. And at one point, there's a suggestion that a parent or caregiver makes an apology to a child, but for the things that happened to them or for them not feeling safe. These are all quite strong actions. They're quite emotional conversations. What do you do if the child can't cope can't regulate during those questions? How do they react to those.
Catherine Young 8:18
First of all, by doing the attachment based play at the beginning, and you won't really start the attachment narrative till you know that the child is cooperating with the attachment based play that is regulating in and of itself. And at the very end of the session, the closing pieces also regulating also no demand is made of the child when you're going through the story. And that gives them a little bit of space, they can sit back and listen if they want. Plus, the things that you're talking about are things that are already going through their head. And because you're framing it in such a more healthy way, often children get a strong sense of relief. Plus, you do not go into trauma into detail. It's that you talk about you know, hard things happen. Then you talk about what the child may have learned from that, and what's really true. So you're doing all this corrective work as you go. And and that corrective work. It's really the underlying meaning that creates the biggest anxiety, I believe, for children. But if you're correcting that, as you go, children often experience actually a lot of relief, you do want to keep an eye on the child. And you know, you can always lighten up or backup if you do feel like they're getting triggered. We do some work with kids who have experienced domestic violence. And it's amazing that you talk to parents when they say that it wasn't directed at them, but they still assume it's their fault. They assume they're responsible for everything that happens at a certain age. And yes, I was fascinated by the final section of NMAT. It's where the child is fed by the parents and you go through some attachment based questions. And in the book, when you read it makes absolute sense. Can you talk about the purpose of the feeding and then talk about what kind of questions you ask? Yeah, well, the feeding is really very, very symbolic as a therapist usually with a parent's permission you bring, you know, little crackers or some little treats that child likes and the parent literally feed them to the child. And you do that with the questions, but it's very symbolic of I can take care of you and I can nurture you. It's one of the things about NMAT is that it's really a lot about repetition. So this isn't something you do one session, and then you don't do anymore, you do it every single session. So over the weeks, it becomes ingrained, it becomes a pattern. Same with the attachment base play also is very grounding. I mean, food is grounding for all of us. But like you said, you know, if we've talked about some difficult things in the session, it's a good way to kind of get grounded back into our bodies and back into the present.
Simon Currigan 10:37
And that was Catherine Young talking about the NMAT approach to helping children overcome attachment injuries. Catherine has over 20 years experience of working with children with attachment and trauma difficulties, and has written a book, which I highly recommend. It not only contains one of the clearest descriptions of attachment theory for the layperson, but it's also super practical. If you want to know more, head back to Episode Eight of the podcast, I'll put a direct link in the episode description. And I'll also put a direct link to Catherine's book there too. And that's all we got time for on this essentials episode. If you've enjoyed listening today, please remember to rate and review us. It takes just seconds. But when you do, it prompts the algorithm to recommend school behaviour secrets to other listeners. And that helps us grow the podcast and reach other teachers, school leaders and parents who need this information. And while you've got your podcast app open, remember to hit the subscribe button so you never miss another episode. Thanks for listening today, and I look forward to seeing you next time on school behaviours.
(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)