Victoria Settle Interview

Victoria (Tori) is the CEO of The Bowlby Centre in Islington, London. She is an attachment-based psychoanalytic psychotherapist and supervisor and is registered as a psychoanalyst with the UKCP.

Tori has taught extensively at The Bowlby Centre specialising in infant development and runs short courses on Attachment for counsellors and psychotherapists who have trained elsewhere but have an interest in learning about Attachment theory and how it can be applied clinically.

Tori has co-authored a chapter on Attachment in The SAGE Handbook of Counselling and Psychotherapy and has written papers on the relevance of Infant Observation on psychotherapy trainings in the Journal of Attachment and The Psychotherapist. She has given regular presentations at clinical forums on how to work with disorganised attachment and the links with this particular attachment pattern and trauma.

Ahead of our forthcoming  BTP spring conference entitled *Love in Psychotherapy*  which is both LIVE In Person (All being well) and Online on Saturday 5th March 2022, Victoria, who is one of our three expert speakers generously took time to speak with us to discover more about her and her work…

Interview with Victoria Settle

1. How did you start out in counselling and psychotherapy?

Like many people, my interest in training was ignited by my own therapeutic journey. I developed a strong sense of fascination in my own inner world and therefore in others. When I discovered Attachment theory, I felt like I had been given permission, for the first time, to think positively about my need for connection with other people. It was one of those pivotal moments that forever and fundamentally changed my perspective on the vital importance of relationship.

2. You’re currently CEO at the Bowlby Centre. For the benefit of folk who may not of heard of the Bowlby Centre, can you explain what goes on there?

The Bowlby Centre is primarily an organisation that trains people to become Attachment-based psychoanalytic psychotherapists. John Bowlby challenged the prevailing Kleinian psychoanalytic view that mental distress arose from internally derived fantasy alone, and he demonstrated the importance of the external environment, and in particular the early parental attachments, to the developing infant’s mind. Values around the importance of the environment – and in particular the discriminations faced by many – remains central to our approach.

3. Attachment theory is your specialist area. What would you say are the top three must-know things about attachment that could benefit all therapists, even if it’s not their main way of working?

What a great question! The first thing would be the importance of keeping in mind that the therapeutic relationship is a long series of care seeking and caregiving exchanges that, when they go well, are really beneficial to the process of healing. Keeping a vigilant eye on how well these exchanges are going between therapist and client is key.

The second thing for me would be that when this care exchange breaks down – and in my experience trauma can seriously disrupt the process – then the rupture and repair process needs to be taken very seriously and can, in itself, also promote healing.

The final thing would be the importance of keeping in mind that we become a really significant attachment figure for our clients so everything we say matters – and it’s really important to manage that position of power with love and care.

4. What got you interested in delivering training?

I got approached by a colleague in 2001 because she was looking for someone to teach the Infant Observation seminar at The Bowlby Centre and I fell in love with teaching. It was compelling to be part of the students’ journeys from raw but keen amateurs through to accomplished and registered clinicians. I have also learnt so much from my students over the last 20 years – it keeps me fresh and it keeps me developing my ability to articulate what it is that I am doing in the consulting room.

5. If you weren’t a therapist, what would you be and why?

Interesting one that one – I could list several hobbies that I am passionate about and in particular Ballroom and Latin dancing – but if you are asking how I would earn my living, then it would have to be teaching children and adults how to ride horses. Not just how to ride well mannered horses but how to get the best out of ‘difficult’ horses. Horses who have not been trained well or who have suffered ill treatment in the past and who have behavioural challenges. Not that different from being a therapist perhaps…

6. Can we talk about your passion for the environment, and in particular chickens?

It took me quite some time to understand just how much the human desire for eggs and poultry had resulted in dreadful living conditions for these lovely birds. Typically chickens are only kept for a short amount of time while they lay optimal numbers of eggs and then they are thrown into an incinerator because their condition is so poor that they cannot be eaten.

We started rescuing hens from these ‘free range’ environments and were shocked at the state of these birds – featherless, so weak that they couldn’t use their legs very well, open festering wounds – it breaks your heart when you see it. I had been surrounded by big healthy hens growing up and the contrast was very sobering.

To see these little damaged rescue hens sunbathing for the first time, or discovering the delicious nature of grubs and greens, gathering leg muscles and making friends with one another – it’s tremendously heart warming and hopeful.

They are very brave and very clever little birds and they catch on really quickly that you are trying to help and they get attached! Training our two little puppies not to eat them was a challenge but they rose to it. I don’t know how others feel but I can quickly become overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the environmental challenges we face, so to do something, however small, feels good.

7. I can’t wait for our conference on *Love in Psychotherapy* with Divine and Robin! For therapists reading this why do you feel this is a go-to CPD event?

We don’t talk enough about Love! Trauma, DID, suffering, pain – these are all subjects we are well versed in – but I am really excited about spending time with colleagues exploring the nature of love. What a fabulous thing to talk about.

8. Where can people hear more from you? (E.g. your own blog, website, Twitter, email?)

I have to confess to being very old fashioned around social media – and my referrals come from word of mouth so I have never advertised myself. My footprint is therefore very low and it’s hard to find out much about me. I prefer to be known in person at events like these!

We are very grateful to Tori for generously taking time to take part in this interview.  Attendees at the BTP *Love in Psychotherapy* Conference on Saturday 5th March will have the chance to meet Victoria, alongside our other fantastic trainers Robin Shohet and Professor Divine Charura.  Victoria will be talking about;

A Theory of Love

Love lies at the heart of John Bowlby’s theory of Attachment and starts with the love between an infant and their primary caregiver.

From the cradle to the grave, secure attachments with family, friends and partners remain key to our sense of safety and contentment. An attuned parental response to their baby’s cues begins to lay down the foundations for the adult’s attachment security. One of the most powerful factors in the development of insecure attachment patterns lies in the failure of the parent to read their infant’s states of mind.

In this presentation, Tori will focus on the attachment perspective on love and will explore the care exchange between care giver and care seeker which can either build security, if it goes well, or undermine and compromise security if it goes badly.

Drawing on both Attachment theory and research and over two decades of clinical experience as an attachment-based psychoanalyst Tori will delve into what is effectively a “Theory of Love” and will use clinical vignettes to illustrate the complexities of the care exchange and the impact of our fear systems on that exchange when working with traumatised client groups.

Questions we will consider:

How do our attachment patterns impact on our capacity to work effectively as professional care givers?


How can we use attachment theory to better understand the complex and often contradictory patterns of seeking care that our clients adopt?


How do the therapist’s and client’s fear systems interact and derail the care exchange?


We hope you have found this interesting? If so, you are most welcome to share this interview with your peers. We welcome any feedback, feel free to leave a comment below.

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1 Comment

  1. MARIE-FRANCE on 2022-01-15 at 11:05 AM


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