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Beyond the Dyad – Systemic MotC course

November 20, 2023 - November 21, 2023


Beyond the Dyad – Developing a truly systemic understanding of attachment and caregiving using the MotC

Ben Grey and Rudi Dallos

20/21 November 2023 and 15th/16th March 2024 10am – 4.30pm

A 4-day, 2 Part, experimental and interactive workshop

Cost: £475 (including 4 day’s live training, 2 optional 1.5 hour workshops, and materials, including the experimental Family Attachment Interview). 

This course is aimed at those who have familiarity with the principles of the Meaning of the Child Interview, but reliability or full training are not required.

Summary Outline

The course will offer training a 4 day into the analysis and clinical implications of the attachment relationships between parents and their children within a family and social systemic context.  We will be introducing and trialling a new Family Attachment Interview, focussing on the network of relationships past and present in a family rather than the dyad.  Participation in the development of this will be invited (but not required) supported by 2 online ‘drop in’ sessions between the 2 parts.

The course is intended as an experimental workshop, with the first 2 days (Part 1) focussing on what we know from existing work, and the second (Part 2) will examine ‘live’ materials ideally provided by participants using the newly developed Family Attachment Interview, developed by the course facilitators, and consider clinical interventions based on new understandings.

Part 1 – 20/21 November 2023 will be offered entirely online.

Part 2 – 15th/16th March 2024 will be offered as a hybrid session; available either online, or in person at the Cambridge Centre for Attachment Garden training Annexe (Old Railway Tavern, Station Road, Longstanton, Cambridge CB24 3DS – see www.attachment.services).  Lunch and refreshments provided to those attending in person (please email with dietary needs).

Detailed Outline

The attachment of parents to the child has been overshadowed by the focus of the child’s attachment to the parent, and later the adult’s state of mind regarding their own childhood experiences.  Whilst this dyadic construction challenged (and still challenges) an individualistic construction of mental distress and problematic behaviour it has had the unintended result of locking attachment theory into providing an in depth understanding of 1:1 relationships at the detriment of its potential to illuminate the influence of the child and parental network of relationships on child wellbeing and functioning.  Children do not just have an attachment to their parents, but to their parents’ relationship (Crittenden and Dallos 2009); and the dependence of children upon a network of support rather than individuals was part of Bowlby’s thinking from the very start (Duschinsky 2020).

This workshop will build on recent developments of Bowlby and Ainsworth’s theory to show how this might be achieved clinically and in research.

  • Crittenden’s Dynamic Maturational Model of Attachment (DMM: Crittenden 2016) by focussing on child and adult attachment as a self-protective response to threat, rather than something ‘transmitted’ from parent to child makes it possible to look at ‘threat’ and danger systemically (ie. as inhabiting a network of relationships) rather than as reflecting only a deficiency of the parent for example.
  • The Meaning of the Child Interview (MotC: Grey and Farnfield 2016) has operationalised Crittenden and Ainsworth’s work on parental sensitivity to see parental caregiving in terms of the compromises parents make in respect of managing adversity in their environment, both past and present. In other words, it moves the concept of parental sensitivity from simply judging a parent good or bad in respect of the implications upon the child, but highlights the systemic and relational context the parent is managing and adapting to.  Parents do not parent in a void, but manage the world for their child.  Dangerous worlds invite sometime desperate compromises to negotiate them, and those worlds can be looked at not just in terms of the parents past but also the social and family systems they are managing.
  • Attachment Narrative Therapy which has operationalised this thinking to provide innovative interventions to children and their families

This workshop will adopt a radical and experimental stance offering a critique of the over emphasis of analyses of parenting as a dyadic process.  Evidence will be offered to suggest that triadic processes, especially conflicts and stress in the parental relationship contribute the most significant component in the development of children’ security. The Dynamic Model of Attachment (DMM) will be employed to illustrate how children’s options for adapting to dangers are shaped by the parental dynamics and the child’s entanglement in these.

Part 1: Days 1 and 2 will outline the theory, illustrated with clinical examples and applications from Attachment Narrative Therapy (ANT) which incorporates the concepts and measures employed.  We will also present a newly developed and experimental family attachment interview which will focus on relationships from a systemic and family point of view rather than a dyadic one.

Participants will have the opportunity to try out the interview between Parts 1 and 2.  They will be supported by 2 optional drop-in online sessions offered on 16th January 2024 and 13th Feb 2024, 4.30 – 6pm.

Part 2: Days 3 and 4

Interviews and excerpts provided by participants will be selected by the course facilitators to look at over these 2 days in a workshop format.  In the unlikely event of insufficient participant material being provided the facilitators will use their own existing material.  These interviews will be analysed using an adapted version of the MotC coding system to develop a truly systemic understanding of caregiving and attachment in a family.  Clinical intervention(s) and implications will be discussed as well as an evaluation of the opportunities and drawbacks provided by the new interview/method.


Dr Ben Grey is a Principal Lecturer for Research on the Doctoral programme in Clinical Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire.  He is former director of the pioneering Attachment Theory, Research and Practice postgraduate programme at the University of Roehampton.  He led the development of the Meaning of the Child Interview (MotC) and published widely in this field.  He has over 25 year’s experience of assessment and consultation using attachment methods and procedures in Family Court, Adoption and Child Welfare settings.  He is co-director of Cambridge Centre for Attachment (www.attachment.services).

Prof. Rudi Dallos is Emeritus professor of clinical psychology at the University of Plymouth, UK where he continues to engage in teaching, research and supervision. He has worked as a family therapist for over 40 years and currently has a private practice where he sees families and offers clinical supervision.   He has developed a systemic approach – Attachment Narrative Therapy (ANT) which integrates ideas form narrative, attachment theory and systemic therapy.   Over the last five years he has specialised in work with families and schools where a child has a diagnosis of autism. He has published a variety of papers and currently is editor of the journal Human Systems, Attachment, Culture and Change. He has written several books including An Introduction to Family Therapy, Attachment Narrative Therapy, Don’t Blame the Parents: Positive Intentions, Scripts and Change in Family Therapy and,  most recently,  Applications of Attachment Narrative Therapy.


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November 20, 2023
November 21, 2023
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Cambridge Centre for Attachment
Cambridge Centre for Attachment, Station Road
Cambridge, CB24 3DS United Kingdom


Cambridge Centre for Attachment
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