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Circle of Security in the Community

Investing in Early Relational Health

From London to the UK:

Building Capacity

Everyone working with children and families accepts that prevention is better than cure. Early Intervention is kinder to children and families, is more effective and is considerably more cost efficient. And yet, it remains the case that despite this accepted truth the vast majority of public funds in the United Kingdom (UK) are allocated to late, crisis-led support and help. No one program or scheme can solve this dilemma, but Circle of Security Parenting® groups now running across the UK are playing their part in changing the story.

Connected Lives: The Story of Our Non-Profit Organization By Jenny Peters

Dr. Clare Gates, child and adolescent psychiatrist, hosted the first Circle of Security training event in 2008. At the time, only the Circle of Security-Intensive protocol was available. Although the training drew significant interest, this intervention was not easily replicable within the constraints of the UK system of care. However, Dr. Gates couldn’t shake the idea that if we could get the profound truths and kindness of the Circle of Security approach to the people who needed it most, parents and other carers of young children, we could begin to make a significant difference.

A portrait of Jenny Peters, Katie Logan, and Clare Gates

Jenny Peters, MA, MSc LSE, Katie Logan and Clare Gates, MD from the Connected Lives Team.

As soon as the 4-day Circle of Security Parenting Training became available in 2010, Dr. Gates and I completed the training and ran the first UK Circle of Security Parenting group in our community, in Westminster, London. People got word of the approach and we began to get requests for groups across the city. One particular group we ran, in a school on the housing estate at the epicenter of the 2011 London riots, was pivotal. At the time, we had no idea if the approach would make sense and be helpful to parents from this largely black and minority ethnic community who were experiencing endemic racism and seeking to raise children in a highly scrutinized and stressful environment. However, the enduring wisdom of the approach worked its magic. One grandmother, who was extremely skeptical at the outset had a series of ‘ah-ha’ moments during the program and in the last session volunteered to spearhead a funding application to Haringey Council to ensure that everyone in her community could access a group!

Together with a brilliant team we set up a family support project, The Centre, from which the charity, Connected Lives was born. The mission of Connected Lives is to provide attachment-based, trauma-informed support for parents and partners. We are a community-based, early intervention charity and running Circle of Security Parenting groups is an important part of what we do.

In this powerful video, two mothers reflect on how Circle of Security Parenting has made a difference in their lives and Catherine Grant, RN, a Connected Lives provider, shares some reflections on being “Good Enough.”

Inspired by colleagues all over the world we have a vision for a network of community-based hubs across the country, working in partnership with statutory agencies to support family life at the earliest possible stage. So far, we have 2 established hubs (NW London and Cambridge) and 2 more are currently in development. Our hubs work with Early Help Teams, Perinatal mental health teams, health visitors and schools to deliver Circle of Security Parenting Groups across our communities. We have delivered groups for over 900 parents and carers and love it that every group is different, every caregiver has a new story and their own ‘ah-ha’ moments.

The ten-year journey from our first group to the increasingly widespread use of the Circle of Security Parenting program in the UK hasn’t been straightforward. If I had to characterize what helped bring the program to London and the wider UK, I’d say dogged persistence and refusal to go away! We hosted yearly 4-day COSP trainings, bent the ears of commissioners, practitioners, funders, like-minded organizations and politicians. We were hugely helped in this endeavor by generous supporters-- such as Gary and Catherine Grant-- who funded our work and even supported having a British voice actor to narrate the COSP program. Our work is being expanded by the hundreds of facilitators who’ve attended the 4-day COSP trainings we have hosted and got the Circle of Security Parenting® bug!

We’ve recently begun to focus on our systems design and systems building work and have added the following components to support COSP facilitators and parents who have received COSP:

  • Learning Communities
    The profound truths of the need for attachment transcend cultural and national boundaries, but we’ve found that connecting with colleagues delivering Circle of Security Parenting Groups across a number of different settings in the UK improves our practice and encourages us further. To that end Connected Lives runs Learning Communities, open to any UK facilitators (and occasionally international friends too) who have completed the 4-day training. At these online events we invite facilitators to present, talk about how they use the approach in their settings, and seek to learn together.

  • Post-COSP Groups
    We know many parents hate to see their COSP group end and often express a desire to continue to explore further and dive deeper into some of the COSP concepts. An innovation by Connected Lives helps meet this need. We offer two 75-minute long COSP Revisited groups: Reviewing Rupture and Repair and Reviewing Being-With and Shark Music

  • Fidelity Coaching
    We are committed to supporting COSP facilitators to use COSP with fidelity and achieving a high level of effectiveness in facilitating COSP. Visit to learn more.

  • Couple's Support
    Since every couple is impacted by the attachment history they bring into their relationship, we have added a component that helps couples become aware of and address this strong influence within their relationship. We encourage couples to take COSP separately or together and, when couple’s issues are uncovered that need further work, have added capacity to address these dynamics using Emotionally Focused Couples and Family Therapy (EFT) and the Hold Me Tight program.

We are into the second decade of our work and are ever more excited about the impact we are having; as we work with our colleagues at Circle of Security-International to build capacity (more trained COSP Facilitators) and capability (deeper reflection through Learning Communities, provision of Fidelity Coaching, etc) we feel that our dogged persistence is paying off.