Understanding a patient’s attachment style allows prediction of likely patterns of interaction in clinical settings and helps in tailoring an overall treatment approach to suit the patient’s style. This attachment-based care approach is particularly useful in the context of difficult doctor–patient interactions.
- Difficult doctor–patient interactions are common and can be a barrier to effective care, with negative emotional consequences for both patient and doctor.
- Attachment theory can help us understand such interactions as relational styles that both patient and doctor bring to clinical settings.
- Understanding difficult interactions in terms of a social relationship helps shift attention away from a pejorative and unproductive focus on the ‘difficult patient’.
- Adults with insecure attachment styles (‘preoccupied’, ‘dismissing’, ‘fearful’ and ‘disorganised’) are more likely than those with a ‘secure’ style to have problems in the context of illness and stress.
- Attachment style can help predict potential problems in the clinical interaction.
- Simple interventions can address specific difficulties in the doctor– patient interaction.
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