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The History of COS-Intensive


he first Circle of Security intervention came to life in the late 1990’s. Initially called The Circle of Security Intervention, this ~20-week parent therapy group attracted interest from clinicians around the world. Each client was assessed individually with the child (infant to 6-year old) that the client felt was the greatest challenge for them to parent. Clients were then seen in groups of 6 to learn about the Circle of Security while focusing on individual reviews of their own particular strengths and struggles in meeting their child’s needs around the Circle. A comprehensive overview of the initial Circle of Security Intervention, including a review of the theory behind the intervention and step-by-step analysis of the treatment approach, brought to life with case studies, was published as The Circle of Security Intervention in 2014. The publication of the book followed the 2013 awarding of the Bowlby-Ainsworth award from the New York Attachment Consortium and the book and the award marked the growing influence of COS-Intensive in the field of clinical applications of attachment.

Of course, a key factor in the spread of the Circle were the research studies that created academic interest. You can read about the initial study of the group intervention on our research page. While you’re there you can download our bibliography which cites other more recent studies of both the COS-Intensive model and the more recently developed COSP program.

If you’re wanting to understand the impact of Circle of Security-Intensive from a client’s viewpoint, check out the remarkable story of Tonier Cain--a graduate of a group conducted as part of an innovative prison-based program here. Tonier’s reflections on what going through the COS-Intensive model has meant to her are powerful. The research study for which she was a participant helped further the case that Circle of Security-Intensive could be a transformative intervention for high-risk clients.

Evolution of the COS-Intensive Model and Training in the Model

While the core features of the Circle of Security Intervention have remained the same, there has been a significant evolution in what we now call the COS-Intensive model. Over the years, dozens of practitioners around the world have gone through extensive training and supervision to become endorsed as Circle of Security Intensive providers. The story of two child psychologists in Boras, Sweden gives a sense of the dedication required to deliver such an intensive psychotherapy model. Karin and Emma began offering COS-Intensive in 2016 with high-risk parents and, as with all our COS-Intensive providers around the world, we are inspired by their story.

Learn more about Karin and Emma’s journey here.

With the advent of the Circle of Security Parenting program in 2010, a new approach to the psychoeducational portion of the COS-Intensive model was created; video segments from the COSP program were used as part of the COS-Intensive model. Many COS-Intensive providers also started their training journey with the COSP program. Clinicians also began using the COS-Intensive model with individual clients, including dyads with children older than preschool age, making COS-Intensive more accessible to families.

For an interesting case study and a review of the updates to the COS-Intensive model, we recommend reading this paper written by Ellen Andrews and Joe Coyne.

Traditionally, the pathway for licensed clinicians interested in becoming endorsed to conduct the COS-Intensive model started with a 10-day training that was only available in person. Following the training, clinicians interested in becoming endorsed as COS-Intensive providers prepared on their own for our case-based exam and, once they passed that exam, those interested were matched with an experienced COS-Intensive supervisor. Supervision involved completing multiple groups--a process that often took more than two years. Typically, the supervision was 1:1, which made it costly.

We’ve made a lot of changes to the COS-Intensive training pathway in recent years and have made the training far more accessible. No longer is the training solely In Person and both the exam and individual supervision are a thing of the past. Learn More here.