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Comparing COSP and COS-Intensive

From Parent Reflection to Intensive Therapy


e're often asked by various providers about the Circle of Security-Intensive model. While the Circle of Security Parenting program can be conducted by anyone who has completed the COSP™ training (either in person or online), only clinicians with experience as psychotherapists are able to be trained in the Circle of Security-Intensive model. The Figure below summarizes the differences between the COSP program and COS-Intensive model.

Comparing the COSP™ Program with the COS-Intensive Protocol

Circle of Security Parenting Program

Human Services professional from any discipline or paraprofessional

In Person or Online training
(~24 hours total)

Coaching available


Facilitate video review using COSP manual (8+ weekly sessions)


Use the COSP Fidelity Journal to reflect on your experience as a Facilitator

Circle of Security-Intensive Model

Trained Psychotherapist

Extensive training

Case Consultation
(Learn more here)


Conduct and videotape pre-group assessment using Strange Situation Procedure (SSP) and Circle of Security Interview (COSI)


Review and analyze SSP and COSI to create treatment plan


Evaluate each group member's Core Sensitivity


Select and assemble individualized video clips for review in group


Use manual to assist in facilitating multiple individualized video reviews with each client over the course of the 20+ week intervention

In many ways, Circle of Security Parenting is built on the same "platform" as the Circle of Security Intensive model. Both use video to introduce to parents what the science of attachment has shown professionals: namely, that the elements of secure attachment can be understood by anyone. Our goal is to engage each parent's wisdom by introducing the map of attachment (the Circle of Security Diagram) and by reviewing interactions between caregivers that illustrate how attachment needs are expressed (or sometimes hidden) by young children.

This cartoon makes light of how a young child's signals might be "missed" by their parent.

We've found that the key to engaging caregivers' wisdom is to get them reflecting on both the meaning of what they see on screen and how what they see on screen makes them feel. Each moment of caregiver-child interaction is packed with information about attachment. At the same time, how caregivers think about attachment is often connected to their own relationship history. We might wonder about the mother in this cartoon: what's her story? How did it come to be that she sees her son's plea for connection to be about "wanting attention?"

Watch as Joe Coyne, one of our trainers in Australia, talks about the difference between COSP and the COS-Intensive protocol.

One key difference between the Circle of Security Parenting program and the Circle of Security-Intensive intervention has to do with intensity: COSP is generally an 8-10 week program in which parents reflect on video of other caregivers. COS-Intensive uses a comprehensive individualized assessment to feed into a longer intervention that focused directly on each caregiver’s video with their child. The assessment and personalization of the COS-Intensive model, in the hands of an experienced psychotherapist, means that parents can "go deeper" into their histories. For some parents or caregivers COSP is enough to promote security in their relationships; for others–particularly those with histories of trauma and/or other stressful conditions– a more intensive therapy model is required.

To learn more about how two child psychologists in Sweden have utilized the COS Intensive model to deepen parents' understanding of their children's emotional needs, check out the COS-Intensive in Sweden story on our COSP in the Community page.

Visit our COS-Intensive page for more information on how to become a Certified COS-Intensive provider.

Core Sensitivities

There's one more difference that sets the Circle of Security-Intensive model apart from COSP. Clinicians who are trained in COS-Intensive learn about what we call core sensitivities. All of us struggle in relationships—that's simply part of being human. But, for most of us, even if we're aware that we struggle, sorting out what aspects of intimate connection are most challenging for us is really hard. It turns out there are three patterns of struggle around intimate connection—whether for us as parents or partners. These patterns of struggle are what we call the core sensitivity and learning about each core sensitivity pattern allows the clinician to deepen their client's understanding of the Circle of Security.

Check out this video in which a number of clinicians talk about Core Sensitivities:

In this brief video, a variety of clinicians talk about Core Sensitivities— what they are and why they matter.

Recently, something interesting has been happening around the world. Providers who have been trained in both COSP and COS-Intensive have been exploring what has been called a "hybrid model." You can learn more about this evolution here.