Attachment and Technology: For Clinicians
There are countless different ways to consider the intersection of how technology affects attachment theory work in therapy. Here are just a few to get you started. I’ll insert pause and reflect reminders after each major point if you want some time to digest. However, if you missed part 1 of this mini-series, you can read it here.
First, let’s consider our relationship with the internet.
Some would argue that the computer and the internet are becoming extensions of the self. All tools throughout time have impacted us in this way. In The Shallows, Carr discusses how new technologies will actually change the way we think. For example, studies have measured the internet’s impact on our brains. Researchers found more divided attention and overloaded working memory. Alternatively, they also found better reflexes and quicker ability to analyze information for relevance. 1 Some good things and some bad, right?
The most striking finding related to attachment theory is that the more distracted we are the less we are able to have empathy and compassion for others. The hypothesis here is that these complex feelings take focused time to develop.
<Pause and reflect.>
Have you ever heard computer terms to describe the human brain’s makeup and workings?
We use computer analogies to describe the human brain all the time:
- Hard drive
- Information processing, etc.
Consequently, how does this language impact someone’s viewing of the healing process? If we’re broken we can just troubleshoot, reboot, and be fine, right? We can pinpoint the problem in concrete terms, right? If only the human psyche were that simple. I get it, sometimes I want things to fit neatly into organized boxes too. But, this oversimplification can really affect folks’ patience with their own healing and self-compassion.
<Pause and reflect.>
This brings us to: folks who show up expecting instant gratification.
The phenomena of blending humanity with computing extends into the mental health world. As a result, therapists are seen as information processors, and new therapeutic services are modeled after input and output systems. We have instant gratification blogs: “7 Ways to be Happier by the End of the Week!” There are crisis chat lines that are run by bots with pre-programmed responses. Additionally, there are counseling applications for your phone that are run entirely by bots or may have a CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) program that you can follow with no human guidance.
These programs are becoming the norm not the exception. So, when someone finally walks into a counseling office and the therapist asks process comments such as “where do you feel that in your body?” puzzled looks abound.
<Pause and Reflect.>
Breaking the bad news: Slowing down gratification.
Attachment theory says healing happens through warm, compassionate relationships. 2 In contrast, in popular culture healing happens with self-help models. Independence vs. interdependence. Therefore, a lot of the time relational therapists have to explore with the clients why attunement with our own bodies rather than attunement to technology is so important. We use tools like mindfulness, co-regulation, and safety to show you why a relationship can be so important in healing. 3 We draw from evolution, science, and culture to teach you why interdependence is crucial.
The attachment theory therapist basically adapts to technology-focused culture by using left-brained explanations for right-brained phenomena into simple bytes* of information.
<Pause and reflect.>
As I wrote this blog, I realized the need for yet another entry –part 3– which will have more clinical implications involving technology and attachment theory. Part 3 will include topics of discussion such as different attachment styles and cyber-bullying.
- The Shallows– Nicholas Carr
- Attached – Amir Levin & Rachel Heller
- The Body Keeps the Score– Bessel Van Der Kolk
If you’re reading this as a non-clinician and would like to ask questions about terms or what it could mean for your own therapy work, please reach out! If you’re ready to take the next step toward relational counseling for yourself, you can contact me here for a free 30-minute consultation in south Austin, TX.
Julia Stamman, LPC
Hi, I’m Julia! I’m an LPC (licensed professional counselor) practicing in South Austin. I understand the personal importance of a therapist groking my lifestyle, so I started helping others who identify as geeks, gamers, and/or misfits. Over time, I realized that I’m passionate about attachment-related trauma, social anxiety, and neurodiversity. On this blog, I write on topics like the overlap of alternative culture and mental health, and how to find services catered to these lifestyles.