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The Revealing Power of the Adult Attachment Interview


The Revealing Power of the Adult Attachment Interview


As a therapist, I continue to be amazed by the insights that surface when we embark on our self-exploration journeys alongside clients. One experience that proved transformative for me was completing the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) training and becoming a certified coder of the instrument. For those unfamiliar, the AAI is a clinical tool designed to assess a person’s state of mind regarding childhood attachment experiences and how those shape adult personality and close relationships.


On the surface, the AAI may seem like another assessment technique. But having gone through it myself and conducted and coded many, I can vouch for its unique power to uncover the often unconscious inner working models that drive our core attachment styles and relational patterns. The interviewer does more than ask explicit questions; they analyse the nuances of how respondents linguistically and meta-communicatively represent attachment experiences.


They pay close attention not just to what memories or beliefs get spoken to but also to how the speaker discusses the sequences, contradictions, emotional tones, and defensiveness employed. The trained coder detects the semantic gaps and distortions that indirectly reveal underlying states of mind concerning attachment. It’s an ingenious way to bypass the rational defences we use to avoid realising our deepest vulnerabilities around safety, fear, anger, and intimacy.


When I experienced the AAI for myself, as all coders must go through the process themselves, the insights were revelatory. Longstanding distortions in my interpersonal dynamics suddenly clarified the unconscious transmission of dismissive and preoccupied patterns across generations, the unfulfilled core yearnings fuelling unhealthy beliefs about being unworthy of love and care, the attachment patterns I recreated in significant relationships. It was also a relief to learn that all my therapeutic work put me in an ‘earned secure’ classification.


It was like a dense fog lifted to unveil the blueprint of my relational psyche. Shadowy operations I sensed but couldn’t fully understand solidified into plain relief. Processing those primal attachment experiences through the AAI’s expert excavation allowed me to access a certain coherence of self-understanding that reorganised my interpersonal paradigms.

The AAI is an intense psychological undertaking that lays bare one’s rawest attachment thoughts, feelings, and memories. However, that vulnerability holds immense therapeutic value for clinicians and clients ready for that rigorous inner work. The insights, mourning of attachment injuries, and re-envisioning of core attachment models are incomparable.


For therapists, undergoing this sharpens our empathy for what clients navigate while deepening our perspective into often invisible attachment dynamics impacting the therapeutic alliance itself. Knowing firsthand the vulnerabilities, traumas, and defences we enquire about enhances how we hold that psychological space.


So, for any client or clinician feeling called to illuminate and re-author their foundational attachment narrative, I highly recommend the enriching, at times gruelling, yet ultimately integrating journey of the Adult Attachment Interview. It offers an opportunity to become firmly grounded in the truth of our relational beings and, from that place, begin to regenerate our attachment stories consciously.



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Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Being willing is not enough. We must do. - Leonardo Di Vinci

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