Sexual abuse: a perversion of attachment? (Dec 2017)

Bowlby Centre, International Attachment Network and Institute of Group Analysis (A threesome workshop)

This event is part of the Bowlby Centre’s Clinical Forum programme, in association with the Institute of Group Analysis and the International Attachment Network. 

This event is now fully booked. 

HOWEVER, we have added an additional date which also features two new speakers in January 2018:

For more information click here



Saturday 9th December 2017, 11:00 AM – 2:30 PM
Institute of Group Analysis, London NW3 5BY

Speaker: Arturo Ezquerro

Chair: Mark Linington, Chair of Bowlby Centre’s Executive Committee.

John Bowlby told me in supervision that his psychoanalytic and psychiatric trainings had not equipped him with enough expertise on child sexual abuse. But he joined the voices that denounced the high incidence of incest and its damaging effects on children – and he unequivocally referred to this as sexual exploitation of the children (Bowlby, 1979). He subsequently became conversant with the literature on the subject and challenged colleagues who denied that the abuse had taken place.

There is a parallel between child sexual abuse and professional sexual abuse. Bowlby was very concerned about the unethical behaviour of some of his colleagues and described this as a “hot potato” (quoted in Hunter, 2015). He was not totally against physical touch in psychotherapy as a gesture of support, because in certain circumstances it can have therapeutic value. However, he was mindful that touch has to be used with much care and discretion, as there is a risk that it can be taken as sexual. And he emphasised that therapists have a special duty to protect vulnerable patients, for which it is crucial to understand the strength of unmet attachment needs that these patients often bring to therapy. 

Bowlby (1988) regretted that Freud replaced his seduction theory with a theory of infantile sexuality based on the myth of Oedipus Rex. Bowlby stated that Freud seemed to have been unable to grasp the centrality of attachment, in childhood and in the therapeutic situation. Not grasping properly the nature of the unmet attachment needs that patients bring to the consulting room may increase the risk of sexual boundary violations (Ezquerro, 2017). That is sexual exploitation of a vulnerable person by someone who is in a position of power. This presentation will aim to increase awareness of the problem and to explore the value of attachment-based interventions. The large group shall provide wider opportunities for reflection.


10:30 AM

Registration and coffee

11:00 AM   

“Sexual abuse: a perversion of attachment?” by Arturo Ezquerro

12:00 PM      

Lunch (provided)

1:00 PM      

Large Group convened by Jonathan Coe (Clinic for Boundaries Studies) and Maria Canete (IGA)

2:30 PM

Light refreshments (ends 3:00 PM)


IGA Members and Students £19
Bowlby Centre Members and Students £19
IAN Members £19

Public £49

Book here

Flyer here

Arturo Ezquerro, consultant psychiatrist, psychoanalytic psychotherapist, and group analyst, is senior lecturer, assessor and trainer at the Institute of Group Analysis, and former Head of NHS Medical Psychotherapy Services in Brent, London. He was supervised by John Bowlby at the Tavistock Clinic (1984-1990), has published over 60 articles and book chapters in five languages, and has authored Encounters with John Bowlby: Tales of Attachment (Routledge) and Relatos de Apego (Psimatica).


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