Dr. Drew: Dr. Wendy O’Connor

Today’s report is a fantastic episode of Dr. Drew’s award-nominated podcast with a  sit-down interview with physician and psychiatrist Dr. Wendy O’Connor (drwendyoconnor.com), author of the new book, Teens and Technology [AMAZON LINK] as well as Stay Open, and an expert on attachment theory in relationships. Dr. Wendy M. O’Connor is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in Brentwood, California. She has worked in various settings with over seventeen years of experience in the community.

Dr. O’Connor explains the difference between “secure attachment,” with a loving mother and father in the home to help guide a child into adulthood and “Anxious and Ambivalent” style that functions on a hot/cold, difficult-to-relate-to personality, and the dreaded “Avoidant” attitude that is the hallmark of an actual attachment disorder where the subject is unable to form close bonds.

Dr. O’Connor teaches classes that train fathers to attach with their infants, walking them through the steps needed to imprint on another person, including the basics of just making eye contact and greeting people upon their appearance in the area. Her original classes were designed for autistic people to integrate, but she laments that technology has kept so many people’s eyes on their phones that they no longer can generate in-person social intimacy anymore.

Dr. O’Connor draws a conclusion that the phone-addicted kids of today are essentially latchkey kids in the new world, even if parents are present – their need for validation goes online rather than to parents and basic downtime communication with ‘appropriate’ attachment targets. She definitely veers into pearl-clutching territory talking about mothers of newborns on their iPhones during sessions, but as a mental health professional, she may have a statistically significant baseline to draw from.

When they go to the phones, a surprising current appears, which is along with chemical and therapy solutions to mental health, both Dr. O’Connor and Dr. Drew suggest literally “gutting it out” and finding something to motivate yourself to move forward with your disease.

Another interesting development is that while Dr. O’Connor seems to loathe modern connectivity tools, she does almost half of her personal practice meetings via Skype; learning to attune to another person and create attachment takes practice. Most of creating attachment is just showing up – whether it’s to tennis class or an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Being in the moment is enough to get the wheels moving on creating new attachments and working through dysfunction.

In the end, Dr. Wendy O’Connor supports people forming attachments in youth, and if that’s not possible or the opportunity is already passed, to just show up. A broad-spectrum, whole-life solution is the answer, be it interacting with your faith, volunteering or just taking in nature/humanity, in addition to chemical and therapeutic answers.