Skip to main content

Birkbeck Training Series 2023-2024

Venue: Online

Book your place

The Birkbeck Training Series enters its sixth year in 2023-24. Launched in 2018 by the Student Counselling Service at Birkbeck, University of London, the workshops are created by and for HE counsellors and are tailored specifically for short-term work with students. We are very proud to have become a valued source of training within the sector and we hope to continue to provide a specialised thinking space for Counsellors working in HE.

Through the course of the pandemic we moved our delivery online. While this has been a loss to not having in person contact with our colleages, it has created the opportunity to widen the scope of those that can attend from across the UK. We have as such decided for now to continue to deliver our trainings online.

Working in the HE sector brings with it opportunity in terms of exposure to the wide range of clients we see, it also brings with it unique challenges which we try to engage with in our trainings. At the core of this is the fact that most of us are trained to do long term work, and while short-term models do exist, there has been no defined and established model that conclusively meets all the challenges we face. As such, our aim with these trainings has been to create a space for clinicians working in this sector, often grappling with this gap to be able to explore bit by bit, how to reframe things in the context of the short-term models we work with.

Every year we focus on a theme to better understand how to reframe our way of working in this context. This year we have decided to focus on a topic that is at the very heart of the therapeutic relationship and human development- Attachment.

Bowlby defined attachment as the “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings”. Its theory focuses on relationships and bonds (particularly long-term) between people, including those between a parent and child and between romantic partners and suggests that people are born with a need to forge bonds, and that these early bonds may continue to have an influence on attachments throughout life.

If viewed through this lens, it is supremely relevant to the practice of short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy. Regardless of what modality of training one has, the capacity to attach, form a therapeutic alliance, establish trust and safety are at the very core of our work. As such it provides an understanding of childhood development and the importance of dyadic interaction between the infant and primary attachment figures. The quality of early attachment relationships predicts future attachment styles and relationship patterns.

Given that attachment theory is based firmly in long-term therapy, our trainings will look to explore and reframe how we can understand it in the context of short-term work.

With that in mind we would like to invite you to join us for our 2023-24 Training Series.


Training 1: Attachment Theory and Practice in short-term work by Dr. Jeremy Holmes

Wednesday 31 January 2024, 9am-1pm

About the Workshop  

Attachment Theory (AT) is not all about attachment.  Bowlby’s famous trilogy titles included Separation and Loss.  The Strange Situation Procedure invented and developed by Bowlby’s co-creator of Attachment, Mary Ainsworth delineated the four patterns of attachment – secure, and insecure-anxious, -avoidant and -disorganised, all arising out of how children and their carers handle separation and reunion in vivo.  Similarly, Mary Main’s parallel classification of discourse styles – fluid-autonomous, preoccupied, dismissing and unresolved-disorganised – are based on how adults describe the ruptures and repairs of their lives in the Adult Attachment Interview.

Regardless of which school of thought one ascribes to, attachment theory remains a cornerstone of therapeutic work. However, as most training programs are taught with long-term therapy in mind, the focus of this workshop will be to consider the vicissitudes of time-limited therapy (TLT) and how to reframe our understanding of attachment from this perspective. We will consider the many varieties of TLT and their attachment relevant features; These include a focus on the here-and-now rather than reconstructions of the past, attempts to foster the capacity to mentalising symptoms and transferential events as they arise, emphasis on separation and loss as built into the model, including the ‘count down’ to the end of the 6 sessions, using client’s discourse style as revealed in the assessment to predict how they will handle the ruptures of session and therapy endings, finding a focal tripartite encapsulation which brings together their relationship to a) their symptoms b) past care-givers c) the therapist and considering whether a good-bye letter or diagram could symbolise the lost therapist at the end of treatment, and provide a material for a secure base equivalent which can carry clients through the post-therapy challenges of student life.

The latter half of the workshop there will comprise of group discussions, Q&A and a ‘live supervision’ of two cases which will be presented and discussed to highlight the concepts explored in clinical practice.

About the Speaker

Jeremy Holmes MD FRCPsych is an Honorary Professor at the University of Exeter and was for 35 years medical psychotherapist and Consultant Psychiatrist at UCL and then in North Devon UK. He was Chair of the medical psychotherapy faculty of the Royal College of Psychiatrists 1998-2002. Author of over 250 papers and book chapters, his books include The Oxford Textbook of Psychotherapy (2008, co-eds Glen Gabbard & Judy Beck) John Bowlby and Attachment Theory (2014), Attachment in Therapeutic Practice (2017), and The Brain has a Mind of its Own (2020).    He is recipient of the Bowlby-Ainsworth foundation award New York, and the Canadian Clinical Psychology Goethe Prize. Allotment gardening, Green politics and grand-parenting now parallel his lifelong fascination with psychoanalytic psychotherapy and attachment theory.


Training 2: Attachment Informed Therapy: Recognising and working with patterns of insecure attachment in short-term work by Linda Cundy

Wednesday 21 February 2024, 9:30am-4:30pm 

About the Workshop

Attachment Theory, along with some of the research underpinning it, is now well-known in the public domain. However, the implications for the practice of counselling and psychotherapy are little considered beyond the notion of the therapist as a “secure base”. Whatever a client’s presenting issue, their early relational history exerts an influence on their engagement with the therapeutic process.

This full-day workshop presents an attachment-informed model of therapy and the skills to recognise, understand and work with different constellations of defences and distorted - or contorted - relational dynamics that typify insecure patterns of attachment.

Workshop Themes

·      The influence of core patterns of attachment, developing as a response to insecurity in early life, on all later relationships, including with the therapist and with oneself

·      The therapeutic challenges posed by clients’ attachment-related defences

·      Considering how short-term counselling can be informed by Attachment Theory

 About the Speaker

Linda Cundy is an attachment-based psychoanalytic psychotherapist, clinical supervisor and a trainer specialising in attachment. She has twenty-five years’ experience of teaching, providing training, conference papers and presentations, and is the Attachment Consultant to the Bowlby Centre.

She is also an author who has contributed to and edited four books to date (And working on five and six!): Love in the Age of the Internet: Attachment in the Digital Era (2015, Karnac), Anxiously Attached: Understanding and Working with Preoccupied Attachment (2017), Attachment and the Defence Against Intimacy: Understanding and Working with Avoidant Attachment, Self-Hatred and Shame (2018), and Attachment, Relationships and Food: From Cradle to Kitchen (2021).

She has written a number of articles for professional journals and continues to be involved in training on a freelance basis and plans to spend more time writing.


Training 3: Working with Attachment related Trauma in short-term work by Graham Music

Wednesday 20 March 2024, 9am-1pm 

About the Workshop

In the first part of this workshop, we will look to explore some of the challenges that have arisen in light of the recent developments in trauma theory. We will look at understanding developmental trauma, the importance of the emphasis on clients feeling safe, not triggered (i.e., which has been an essential aspect of new trauma theory); and will also question whether the movement towards prioritising safeness has meant that the issues some clients come with are not being sufficiently addressed.

We will cover some of the key features of autonomic nervous system functioning which can give clues as to whether a client needs help regulating and feelings safe or whether the time is ripe for them to be challenged to face what will be helpful to face.

In the second part of the workshop, we will dive briefly into some aspects of technique which can be challenging for psychodynamically trained therapists. These will include:

·      How to develop a focus for the work

·      How to spot and work with defences against emotions

·      The role of our (embodied) countertransference in such work

·      becoming aware of anxiety pathways in the body

·      The relative roles of thinking about the past, transference and current life challenges

Finally, we will reflect on how to use a modified psychoanalytically informed and more emotionally focused way of approaching sessions while doing short-term work with clients for whom attachment has been traumatic or more complex.

About the Speaker

Graham Music is a psychotherapist, trainer, author and supervisor. He is a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist at the Tavistock Centre where he worked for over 25 years, and he has been adult psychotherapist for about 35 years.

Formerly Associate Clinical Director of the Tavistock Clinic’s Child and Family Department, he has developed many innovative programs, including setting up services in over 40 schools and a range of services working with the aftermath of child maltreatment and neglect. His clinical specialty for decades been understanding and working with trauma.

He supervises and teaches nationally and internationally and has a particular interest in linking cutting edge developmental findings with therapeutic practice.  

His publications include Nurturing Natures: (2023, 2016, 2010), Respark: Igniting Hope and Joy after trauma and depression, (2022), Affect and Emotion (2022, 2001), Nurturing Children: From Trauma to Hope (2019), The Good Life: (2014) as well as co-editing From Trauma to Harming Others (2022).


Contact name: