Alessandro Talia, PhD (Institute for Psychosocial Prevention, Heidelberg University)
Alessandro Talia is a researcher and clinician interested in attachment, mentalizing, epistemic trust, and therapeutic communication. Born in Rome in 1983, he graduated there in Philosophy and in Psychology. In 2012, he moved to New York for a research stay at the New School for Social Research under the mentorship of Jeremy Safran. In 2016 he received a PhD at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), with a dissertation on attachment in the therapy context. He is author of the Patient Attachment Coding System (PACS) and the Therapist Attunement Scales (TASc), measures that accurately predict patients' and therapists' Adult Attachment Interview status and Reflective Functioning based on in-session communication. He currently works as a post-doc researcher at the University of Heidelberg, where he is developing an in-session assessment of disorganized attachment. He has published work on psychotherapy research and psychotherapy practice, which has led him to win in 2015 the International Award for Research studies on Trauma and Personality, which is assigned to the best young investigator in the area of attachment, personality and psychopathology. He also focuses on issues of philosophy, cognitive linguistics, psychoanalysis, and development.
From the cradle to the consulting room: an empirically-based perspective on attachment differences in psychotherapy
It is widely known that individual differences in attachment (as measured for example with the Adult Attachment Interview, AAI) influence the process of psychotherapy in important ways. However, little is known about the features that distinguish how secure, dismissing, preoccupied, and unresolved/disorganized patients and therapists communicate during psychotherapy sessions. Are the ways in which dismissing patients idealize their experiences with their caregivers in the AAI similarly reflected in their engagement with the therapist? Are secure patients as coherent in psychotherapy as they are in the AAI? Do preoccupied patients become as entangled with their therapist as they are thought to be in their close relationships? And how about therapists? Until recently, there remained a relative lack of empirical evidence that existing knowledge on attachment patterns can be extended to the therapeutic context.
This talk will present research conducted by my group and I about how individual differences in attachment can be identified and worked with in psychotherapy. Special emphasis will be given to the Patient Attachment Coding System (PACS) and the Therapist Attunement Scales (TASc), two measures that accurately predict patients' and therapists' AAI status based on the occurrence of distinct communication markers during therapy sessions. The audience will be introduced to how one can identify some of these markers, which reflect how patients communicate their subjective experience and how therapists attune to it. Implications of this research for researchers and clinicians will be discussed through examples extracted from psychotherapy sessions.