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The Core Sensitivities: A clinical evolution of Masterson’s Disorders of Self

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Brooke E. Poulsen, DClinPsych, and Joseph J. Coyne, MClinPsych, School of Psychology and Counselling, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland 

Abstract

The Circle of Security (COS) intervention provides a clinical application of attachment theory demonstrated to promote adaptive interactions between parents and their children. Key to the program is the structured relationship assessment and conceptualisation of caregiver state of mind through core sensitivities. The core sensitivities are a reformulation of James Masterson’s (1976, 1985) and Masterson and Klein’s (1989, 1995) concepts of the disorders of self. They represent prototypes of three core concerns people hold in relationships and the characteristic affects and defenses utilised to manage these. Although developed specifically with COS in mind, the use of core sensitivities to understand caregiving relationships is a focal application of a broader concept. This article introduces the core sensitivities, their theoretical origins and the potential for broader application to psychotherapy.

 

Keywords: Circle of Security; core sensitivities; attachment theory; disorders of self

 

Address for correspondence:
Dr. Brooke Poulsen,
School of Psychology and Counselling,
Queensland University of Technology,
Brisbane, Queensland.
Email: brooke.poulsen@connect.qut.edu.au