Families 1st 

Circle of Security

From Circle of Security International

Circle of Security (COS) is intended to help caregivers increase their awareness of their children’s needs (ages 0-5) and improve their own responses to meet those needs.

With increased awareness, parents can choose to respond in ways that promote secure attachment and exploration of the environment.  In this shift from mind-blindness to seeing what is hidden in plain sight lies the potential to break the stranglehold of problematic attachment patterns, passed from one generation to the next that can compromise healthy relationships throughout a child’s lifespan.  COS is based upon an interface of attachment theory, object relations theory, and family systems theory.

From the California Evidence Based Clearinghouse:

In addition to teaching the basics of attachment theory and increasing parent skills in recognizing and responding to children’s needs, COS supports a process of reflective dialogue between the practitioner and parent to explore strengths and areas of difficulty, to help parents become “Bigger, Stronger, Wiser, and Kind.”

It increases caregivers’ awareness and understanding of non-conscious, problematic responses they sometimes have to their children’s needs.  It also increases caregivers understanding of their child’s behavior and teaches skills to understand and regulate their own cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses.  

Essential components include 1. Individualized treatment plans developed by videotaping and parent-child interaction assessment, 2. Identification of the single, most problematic pattern related to attachment and caregiving, and 3. Three video sessions of caregivers interacting with their children.  It was designed to be conducted in a group setting.  Home visits are included for the video sessions.  Recommended duration from assessment to the final visit is 3-4 months.


Circle of Security Website

Glen Cooper, Kent Hoffman and Bert Powell developed Circle of Security International to provide training on COS early intervention, attachment theory, assessment, and differentials diagnosis.  In response to the need for a scalable COS model, the three developed Circle of Security Parenting© (COS-P), an 8-week DVD protocol for use by clinicians and parent educators with groups, dyads, and individuals that has been translated into six languages and can be learned in a four-day training.

Hoffman, K., Marvin, R., Cooper, G. & Powell, B. (2006). Changing toddlers’ and preschoolers’ attachment classifications: The Circle of Security Intervention. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74, 1017-1026.  This is the original study with Head Start.

Cassidy, J., Ziv, Y., Stupica, B., Sherman, L. J., Butler, H., Karfgin, A., Cooper, G., Hoffman, K. T., & Powell, B. (2010). Enhancing maternal sensitivity and attachment security in the infants of women in a jail-diversion program. In J. Cassidy, J. Poehlmann, & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Incarcerated individuals and their children viewed from the perspective of attachment theory. Special issue of Attachment and Human Development.

Cassidy, J., Woodhouse, S., Sherman, L., Stupica, B., & Lejuez, C. (2011). Enhancing infant attachment security: An examination of treatment efficacy and differential susceptibility. Journal of Development and Psychopathology, 23, 131-148.

Powell, B., Cooper, G., Hoffman, K. & Marvin, R. (2007). The Circle of Security: A case study. In D. Oppenhiem & D. Goldsmith (Eds.). The added value of attachment theory for clinical work:  Bridging the gap between research and practice (pp. 172-202). New York, NY:  Guilford Press.

Prevention matrix

Primary – Secondary – Tertiary

COS has been provided to parents with higher risks of abuse or neglect.  It can address insensitive, unresponsive caregiving or frightening parental behavior. 


Introductory training (1 or 2 days) provides a basic understanding of attachment theory via the Circle of Security (COS) and an introduction to treatment planning and clinical application using the COS. Particular attention will be given to the essential features of both healthy and unhealthy attachment. Participants will learn new ways to understand the central characteristics of secure attachment and its importance across the life span.  Introductory training is open to everyone, regardless of occupation or educational background.

Intensive training (10 days) consists of a one day general introduction to COS and nine days of in-depth training and is designed for clinicians who are interested in assessment and treatment planning based upon the Circle of Security approach.

Parenting DVD training (4 days) is a user-friendly parent education program that teaches the core elements of secure attachment and provides tools for parents/caregivers to recognize and make new choices about insecure interactions.   The concepts and examples of parent/child interaction needed to  provide the program are provided on  a COS Parenting DVD. A statewide group of partners in Nebraska will bring this training to Kearney on September 16-19, 2014.  Please note that this training is specific to the Parent Education Program and is not the same as the Introductory or Intensive Training. Community teams, but not individuals, will be eligible to apply for scholarships of up to $450 per individual (50% of the cost for the DVD, manual, handouts, and license) for this training.  Teams may include Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, Mental Health Counselors, Home Visitors, Family Support Workers, Outreach Workers, Behavior Support Specialists, Extension Educators and anyone providing parenting education and/or counseling to parents of young children.  Meal, lodging, and other travel expenses will not be covered in the scholarships.

State partners

Early Development Network, UNL-Extension and Center for Children, Families and the law, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, NE Department of Education, NE Department of Health and Human Services, Nebraska Infant Mental Health Association, NE Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, Head Start State-Collaboration Office and others. 

Nebraska Children grantee communities 

The Circle of Security (COS) is currently being used by four trained providers in the Panhandle. Dr. Mark Hald, who has provided leadership in bringing COS to the state, is contracted by DHHS to provide a therapeutic level (Intensive Intervention) of COS for parents and children with high risk or behavioral factors.

Partners in the Panhandle are also exploring how Circle of Security might become a multi-level practice (universal through intensive intervention) by training various levels of practitioners to provide the Circle of Security with parents across the prevention spectrum.  

State Partners