Attachment-Based Play Techniques for Enhancing Growth in Supervision

Attachment-Based Play Techniques for Enhancing Growth in Supervision

Anne L. Stewart, Lennis G. Echterling
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4628-4.ch004
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The purpose of this chapter is to provide an attachment theory perspective for conceptualizing the supervisor-supervisee relationship and to describe a variety of attachment-informed and playful techniques for enhancing the power of supervision to promote robust learning and growth. The same patterns of attuned interactions and reflections in play therapy are also useful to apply to the supervisor-supervisee relationship. Play creates a pleasure bond between two people that strengthens the sense of attachment. In the second half of this chapter, several attachment-based experiential activities are described that provide a means for the supervisor and supervisee to connect at a deeper level. Just as play therapy provides a relational, non-verbal, and symbolic means for children to express their experience, the use of experiential activities, embedded in a trusting and caring relationship, can enhance the supervisory experience.
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The Power Of Play

Play is an improvisational, emotionally engaging, and active experience that, as demonstrated in neuroscience research, increases levels of oxytocin, activates mirror neurons, and promotes neuroplasticity (Cozolino, 2017). As a result, the experience of play not only provides a therapeutic rapport, it also enhances the supervisory relationship. Play creates a bond between people that strengthens the sense of attachment (Stewart & Echterling, 2014). Koeners and Francis (2020) argued that the physiology of play makes it especially relevant for higher education. In their vison of playful universities, institutions of higher education could counteract the emphasis on performance and embrace progressive failing. Play is an essential feature in the pedagogy due to its ability to help counteract fear of failing, promote social resilience, and enhance cognitive flexibility. The excitement sparked by play can enliven and energize an alliance, forging a productive relationship both in play therapy and in supervision.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Broaden-and-Build Theory: Developed by Barbara Frederickson to describe the effect of positive emotions, such as joy or gratitude, have on expanding one’s awareness.

Safe Haven: A concept of attachment theory that describes the base of security that an attachment figure can offer someone, particularly in the face of a threat.

Secure Attachment: A relationship characterized by consistency, acceptance, commitment, and dependency.

Emotional Regulation: One’s ability to manage feelings in order to cope effectively with challenges.

Neuroplasticity: The brain’s ability to change and reorganize itself by forming new neural networks.

Attachment Theory: A psychological and ethological theory, originally formulated by John Bowlby and elaborated by Mary Ainsworth, that focuses on the importance of primary relationships between humans.

Secure Base: A foundational relationship that provides comfort and safety, inviting one then to venture out and explore the world.

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