How do you decide when a problem is not rooted in early experience? While developing Coherence Therapy, Bruce Ecker, coauthor of Unlocking the Emotional Brain, spent a lot of time uncovering the differences between attachment-related problems and those that mimic them in therapy.

For example, one of his clients worked for an abusive boss and made no move to find a new job. His situation had some of the trappings of an attachment-related issue, but a bit of digging revealed that the client’s unwillingness to leave his job was more closely related to the traumatic end of his athletic career in high school than to his early childhood.

It can be tempting to start looking for the attachment-based origins of every problematic relationship, but often that only gives you a small part of the whole picture. That’s why Bruce argues that Attachment Theory adherents can all benefit from incorporating other approaches.

In this brief video clip, Bruce demonstrates how to use something he calls the “unacceptable costs” technique to challenge a client’s deeply entrenched negative behavior that’s unrelated to any early attachment injury.

Rich Simon

Richard Simon, PhD, founded Psychotherapy Networker and served as the editor for more than 40 years. He received every major magazine industry honor, including the National Magazine Award. Rich passed away November 2020, and we honor his memory and contributions to the field every day. 

Bruce Ecker

Bruce Ecker, MA, LMFT, is codirector of the Coherence Psychology Institute, co-originator of Coherence Therapy, and coauthor of Unlocking Emotional Brain and Depth Oriented Brief Therapy.