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The narrative approach in psychotherapy: Critical Themes and Belongingness


ERC Sectors

SH4_3 - Clinical and health psychology


1- Narrative approach, Life themes and attachment relationships

This research aims to investigate at the linguistic and semantic level the presence of Life Themes (meaning attractors) within the adult autobiographical accounts, in order to find the ways in which they organize the content of the narratives. We focused on attachment stories, obtained from the Adult Attachment Interview transcripts (AAI). The contents of the transcripts are explored identifying the thematic indicators, in order to enrich the present theoretical model. A coding tool has been developed for clinical use, able to add a semantic evaluation to the analysis of formal coherence. The thematic coding tool is being validated.

2- Motivation of belonging and its meanings

The research was carried out mainly at the bibliographic level, in a transversal way to different disciplines, with the aim of investigating the concept of belonging / affiliation, with reference to the cognitive-evolutionary approach. An overview of the dual motivation for power and affiliation in the field of neuroscience has emerged (perceptions of affiliation and isolation are connected to circuits involved in the theory of mind) and endocrinology. At the hormonal level it seems that the body has adapted, in the course of evolution, promoting affiliative behaviors through the action of the oxytocin system which, in combination with other hormones, modulates some of the responses that the body produces in complex environmental and social situations: for example, these could concern care for offspring and the use of affiliate behavior in dangerous circumstances, belonging to groups with the aim of reducing the response to a stressful event and the regulation of automatic behaviors, directing action in a pro-social sense.

3 - Gender identity and attachment: a longitudinal survey

The research project is carried out in the form of a collaboration between the Department of Psychology of the University of Turin, the Molo Foundation, and the Interdepartmental Center for Identity Disorders of Gender Molinette of Turin (C.I.D.I.Ge.M.).

In the first area of ​​this project the study aims to explore the issues related to its own history of child attachment, the influence of any adverse childhood experiences and the ability to reflect on one's own and others' mental states of adult individuals belonging to C.I.D.I.Ge.M. The presence of possible dissociative symptoms related to the trauma is evaluated also considering the possible association between somatoform dissociation and discomfort linked to the body image.

The longitudinal perspective of the study aims to investigate the role of the transition process on the well-being of T people, in terms of the variables considered. We explored if and how gender transition process influences the continuity of the IWMs and Reflective Functioning level. Preliminary data at T0 showed a high percentage of insecure attachment with frequent signs of unresolved loss or trauma. An improvement both in the AAI coherence scale and RF scoring was reported at T1 (post- sex reassignment surgery).


Potential Evolution of Research Lines

1- Narrative approach, Life themes and attachment relationships

For the future the aim is to develop the line of research undertaken by analyzing narrative themes within individual stories mediated by other interpersonal motivational systems. A further line of development could concern the narrative analysis of the Child Attachment Interview transcripts, investigating the configurations of narrative themes around the child’s internal working model. In general, in the clinical setting, having an explanatory model of the critical themes, would allow the therapist to orient himself with respect to the patient's cognitive system and the most critical semantic nuclei, a useful condition to guide the subsequent reformulation of the problem and the subsequent psychotherapeutic intervention.

2- Motivation of belonging and its meanings

Based on the findings in the literature, the aim of the research is to study the phenomenology of the behaviors of belonging, starting from the hypothesis of the existence of an interpersonal motivational system underlying them. Starting from a solid knowledge of the state of the art on the subject, the research design can be composed of:

(a) a study related to the neuroendocrine correlates of the processes connected to the appearance of the membership system (through stimulus situations);

(b) an analysis of the narratives through specific interviews that record the actual positioning of the individual in / out with respect to the groups to which he belongs, the subjectively experienced positioning and evaluated as positive / negative, the hierarchical ways of hierarchizing the multiple belongings in critical situations. In a second phase, the membership system will be dealt with as a tool to define and recognize one's own identity, investigating one's own field of interest.

3 - Gender identity and attachment: a longitudinal survey

The research project continues developing each area mentioned.

Another area of ​​the project regards the evaluation of the desire to become parents in childless T children and the experience of parenting as part of their gender identity in T people who had children before the transition is explored.

4- Interventions based on mindfulness, childhood trauma and dissociation

This study aims to investigate the benefits of a mindfulness program in terms of reducing psychopathological symptoms, reducing dissociative symptoms, improving quality of life and improving disposition to be aware in everyday life. The study also aims to explore the association between mindful traits and psychological well-being depending on exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACE), exploring the role of mindful skills as mediators between the presence of childhood trauma and dissociative symptoms.

5- Cardiovascular diseases, adverse childhood experiences and PTSD

The research project is in the field of clinical psychology and psychotraumatology applied to the field of cardiovascular diseases, with the aim of:

  1. a) investigating the role of the adverse childhood experiences in the development of cardiovascular diseases;
  2. b) assessing the PTSD symptoms and dissociative symptoms related to the event of heart disease and the treatment process;

c) investigating the role of psychological treatment offered by the Psychological Service of a rehabilitation structure on levels of dissociative and acute stress symptoms.


  • Fondazione Carlo  Molo Onlus di Torino
  • Centro Interdipartimentale Disturbi d'Identità  di Genere Molinette di Torino (C.I.D.I.Ge.M.)
  • Centro Clinico Crocetta
  • Casa di Cura Villa Serena



Cussino M., Crespi C., Mineccia V., Molo M., Manieri C., Veglia F., State of Mind of Attachment and Reflective Function in an Italian transsexual sample, European Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, in press.

Cussino, M., Crespi, C., Mineccia, V., Molo, M., Motta, G., & Veglia, F. (2017). Sociodemographic characteristics and traumatic experiences in an Italian transgender sample. International Journal of Transgenderism18(2), 215-226.

Gandino G, Di Fini G, Bernaudo A, Paltrinieri M, Castiglioni M, Veglia F. (2017) The impact of perinatal loss in maternity units: A psycholinguistic analysis of health professionals' reactions. Journal of health psychology 1359105317727841 [DOI  PMID]

Gandino G, Bernaudo A, Di Fini G, Vanni I, Veglia F. (2017) Healthcare professionals' experiences of perinatal loss: A systematic review. Journal of health psychology 1359105317705981 [DOI  PMID]

Veglia F, Di Fini G. (2017) Life Themes and Interpersonal Motivational Systems in the Narrative Self-construction. Frontiers in psychology 8 1897 [DOI  PMID]

Gandino G., Bernaudo A., Di Fini G., Vanni I., Veglia F. (2016) Meanings of perinatal loss: a thematic analysis of health workers’ experiences, Minerva Psichiatrica, 57(3):104-12

Civilotti C, Castelli L, Binaschi L, Cussino M, Tesio V, Di Fini G, Veglia F, Torta R. (2015) Dissociative symptomatology in cancer patients. Frontiers in psychology 6 118 [DOI  PMID]

Zaccagnino M, Cussino M, Preziosa A, Veglia F, Carassa A. (2015) Attachment representation in institutionalized children: a preliminary study using the child attachment interview. Clinical psychology & psychotherapy 22(2) 165-75 [DOI  PMID]

Zaccagnino M, Cussino M, Saunders R, Jacobvitz D, Veglia F. (2014) Alternative caregiving figures and their role on adult attachment representations. Clinical psychology & psychotherapy 21(3) 276-87 [DOI  PMID]

Cussino M., Zaccagnino M.,  Di Fini G., & Veglia F., (2013) Postnatal Depression And Prevention: Effects Of A Psychoeducational Intervention. Minerva Psichiatrica 51(1), 41-58. 

Di Fini G., Civilotti C.,  Zaccagnino M., &  Veglia F., (2013)  Attaccamento Adulto e Temi di Vita: Una Ricerca Qualitativa attraverso l'Analisi Testuale delle Adult Attachment Interview. Quaderni Di Psicoterapia Cognitiva 32(20), 45-60.

Di Fini G., Zaccagnino M., Civilotti C.,  Cussino M., Callerame C., & Veglia F., (2013) Thematic and linguistic analysis of Adult Attachemtn Interview transcript: a survey on an Italian sample. Poster presented at VI International Attachment Conference, Pavia, IT.

 Giorcelli, S., Gusmeroli., & Veglia, F. (2013). Narrazione e sessualità: l'esperienza di un gruppo. In C. Ruggerini,S.  Manzotti, G. Griffo,  & F. Veglia (Eds.), Narrazione e disabilità intellettiva (pp. 197- 218). Trento, IT: Centro Studi Erickson.

 Veglia F., (2013)  Narrazione: origine, funzioni e necessità.  In  C. Ruggerini, S. Manzotti, G. Griffo, & F. Veglia (Eds.),  Narrazione e disabilità intellettiva (pp. 43- 62).  Trento, IT: Centro Studi Erickson.

Civilotti C., Furno V., Di Fini G., Cussino M., & Veglia F., (2012) The Theme of Death in the transcripts of Adult Attachment Interviews in cancer patients: a pilot study. Proceedings IPOS 14th World Congress 2012, Brisbane, QLD.

 Di Fini G., Cussino M., Zaccagnino M., & Veglia F., (2012) I Temi di Vita e la storia di attaccamento: uno studio esplorativo sui trascritti dell'AAI. Quaderni di Psicoterapia Cognitiva, 19 (1) 364. 

Castellino N, Bosco FM, Marshall WL, Marshall LE, Veglia F. (2011) Mindreading abilities in sexual offenders: an analysis of theory of mind processes. Consciousness and cognition 20(4) 1612-24 [DOI  PMID

Zaccagnino M., Cussino M., Saunders R., Jacobvitz D., & Veglia F. (2011) Le figure alternative di attaccamento: impatto sulla modifica dello state of mind e sulla trasmissione intergenerazionale dei modelli operativi interni. Psicologia Clinica Dello Sviluppo, 3, 669-692.

De Marco I., Giorcelli S., Testa S., Veglia F., & Bara B. G. (2010) Contribution to an Assessment of the Validity of the SubjectiveTherapeutic Report Form (STReF) Using Second-Order Confirmatory Factor Analysis Approach to Multitrait-Multimethod AnalysisBollettino Di Psicologia Applicata, 26,. 23-34.

Amanzio M., & Veglia F. (2009). Prospettive cognitiviste. In C.  Albasi (Ed.), Psicopatologia e ragionamento clinico (pp. 223-234). Milano, IT: Raffaello Cortina.

Barone L., Del Giudice M., Fossati A., Manaresi F., Actis Perinetti B., Castelli P., Colle L., & Veglia F. (2009) Psychometric properties of the Manchester Child Attachment Story Task: An Italian multicentre study. International Journal of Behavioral Development33 (2), 185-190.


Last update: 21/03/2019 10:00
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