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Abstract

There are very few less contentious issues than the role of attachment in psychotherapy. Concepts such as the therapeutic alliance speak directly to the importance of activating the attachment system, normally in relation to the therapist in individual therapy and in relation to other family members in family-based intervention, if therapeutic progress is to be made. In group therapy the attachment process may be activated by group membership. The past decade of neuroscientific research has helped us to understand some key processes that attachment entails at brain level. The article outlines this progress and links it to recent findings on the relationship between the neural systems underpinning attachment and other processes such as making of social judgments, theory of mind, and access to long-term memory. These findings allow intriguing speculations, which are currently undergoing empirical tests on the neural basis of individual differences in attachment as well as the nature of psychological disturbances associated with profound disturbances of the attachment system. In this article, we explore the crucial paradoxical brain state created by psychotherapy with powerful clinical implications for the maximization of therapeutic benefit from the talking cure. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Clin Psychol 62: 411–430, 2006.