About Una

During my undergraduate degree in social science I came across the effect of gross poverty on people’s lives. I had placements in Dublin and in city centre Philadelphia , USA. In both countries social security systems were grossly inadequate.

Following my professional training as a social worker at Edinburgh University I then worked for five years in an innovative department of child and family psychiatry where I developed an interest in functional and dysfunctional relationships and how these intertwine with issues of poverty, health, cognitive and emotional development and well-being. We were the first child and adolescent department in the UK to admit whole families for work on the dynamics of their relationships and how these were affecting the development of personal and social competence in all the members of the family.

I developed a real interest in the effective use of relationship-based work with couples (both as partners and parents)  and families as a means of promoting competence to manage everyday affairs. I became involved in the beginning of the Family Therapy Association and served on the executive for many years. I trained in ‘Analytic Group Work and Associated Applications’ with JD Sutherland and Megan Browne, OBE at the Scottish Institute of Human Relations in the mid 1970’s.  In the 1980’s I worked as staff on Tavistock Management Consultancy courses.  These courses were for managers in companies such as Lever Bros and ICI as well as the NHS, Local Authorities and the Voluntary Services.  In the 1990’s I undertook and completed an extensive training in Systems Centred Group Psychotherapy and became the first licensed practitioner in SCT in Europe.  I let my license in SCT lapse in the mid 2000’s when I realised that there were theoretical and methodological conflicts between the way of working offered by SCT and the attachment based work which I was developing.

In 2001 I completed my doctoral thesis after many years of research.  The title of the thesis was “A Theory of Caregiving in Adult Life:  developing and measuring the concept of Goal-Corrected Empathic Attunement volume I and volume II”.  It is held in the library of the University of York. I consider this to be a theory of interaction for psychotherapy.

Following this research,  I identifed five typical care-seeking patterns of behaviour and five typical care-giving responses which give rise to nine different patterns of interaction between professional caregiver and careseeker, each presenting distinctive vitality affects.   Two of these patterns of interaction are effective in terms of providing the conditions for exploration and development and seven are inhibitive.These patterns are based on the proposition that attachment behaviour is goal-corrected.  The effective behaviours for professional caregivers are based on a process of interacting that I have called Goal-Corrected Empathic Attunement (GCEA).

These are elaborated in my book:  To Be Met as a Person: the dyamics of attachment in professional encounters, Karnac: London 2005 and further developed in the book I co-authored with Dr Dorothy Heard and the late Doctor Brian Lake, entitled ‘Attachment Therapy with Adolescents and Adults: Theory and Practice post Bowlby. Karnac: London 2009.

Based on my own work on interaction in the professional caregiving relationship, and the Theory of Attachment Based Exploratory Interest Sharing (TABEIS) developed by Dorothy Heard and Brian Lake, I have developed:

  1. A Model of  individual and group psychotherapy exploring ‘The Dynamics of Attachment in Adult Life’ TM for professional care-givers called ‘Goal-Corrected Exploratory Psychotherapy’ TM;

  2. A Training Programme for those who want to learn how to use this model in their work with clients;

  3. A Research Programme that is designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the model.

A photograph of Dr Brian Lake and Dr Dorothy Heard taken at a Conference at York University in the 1990’s