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What is Attachment Therapy: How It Works, Techniques, & Effectiveness

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Attachment therapy is a form of therapy that is based on attachment theory and focuses on bonding and relationships between people. It is a form of inner-child work in which a mental health therapist works backward to help a person rebuild their trust in relationships by healing insecure attachments that may have been formed through childhood trauma or neglect.

What is Attachment Theory?

Attachment theory suggests that when we are very young we need to build secure attachments with our caregivers. For several reasons, this may not happen, and we can end up with an insecure or disorganized attachment. This attachment style will then negatively impact future relationships with others.

There are four attachment styles:

Ambivalent attachment style is the result of poor parental availability, which makes a child unable to depend on their primary caregiver being there when they need them. A child with ambivalent attachment becomes extremely distressed when a parent leaves.

Avoidant attachment style is often the result of abusive or neglectful caregivers. With an avoidant attachment style, a child does not show preference between a caregiver and a stranger. They have learned not to rely on their caregiver for help.

Disorganized attachment style is when a child displays a confusing range of behavior due to inconsistent caregiver behavior. They may resist a parent, or act confused, dazed, or clingy at intervals. Parents of children with disorganized attachment styles are often both a source of comfort and fear.

Secure attachment style is ideal, with the child understanding that the parent may go but they will always come back. This child will be distressed when a caregiver leaves and comforted when they return.

Attachment theory posits that behaviors based on these attachment patterns continue into adulthood, and can either promote or prevent healthy relationships.

Who is Attachment Therapy For?

Attachment-based therapy can help those who experience symptoms of an attachment disorder. The following are some common signs and symptoms of someone with insecure attachment:

  • You find it difficult to be emotionally vulnerable with others
  • Find it difficult to make meaningful connections
  • Worry about being abandoned in relationships
  • Find yourself leaving relationships out of fear of abandonment ("I'll leave them before they can leave me")
  • Find yourself worrying that your partner doesn't love you despite their words and actions
  • Feel distressed in relationships, especially in more intimate relationships
  • Have low self-esteem

Attachment-Focused Therapy For Relationships

In attachment therapy, you will want to work with someone with whom you have a strong therapeutic relationship. Attachment-based therapies require that you revisit and reflect deeply on past connections with your primary caregivers and relate them to current behaviors.

In a safe space, you will identify and probe into attachment wounds and engage narratively with childhood trauma. You will learn to tell the story of your own early attachment wounds and interactions with your primary caregiver in a controlled and safe way to process that trauma.

Next, your therapist will help you address adult attachment patterns that have manifested, and help you learn to form healthy relationships with others. This includes building secure relationships with friends, family members, and romantic partners.

A person's attachment style can change in adulthood with the help of an experienced professional. You can learn to form healthy attachments with others and improve your own mental health and self esteem through attachment-based therapy.

Attachment-Based Family Therapy

Attachment-based family therapy is a form of attachment therapy that typically focuses on repairing the family bond with teens who have formed insecure or anxious attachment styles. Rather than focusing on attachment behaviors between friends and partners, family attachment therapy focuses on the original formative relationships and addresses the early trauma or emotional neglect that may have caused the rift. Unlike traditional individual therapy for attachment, this attachment therapy will involve the person with poor attachment as well as one or both caregivers.

Benefits of Attachment Therapy

Without secure attachments, we rely heavily on our primary emotions, which put our bodies into a state of high alert, called “fight, flight, or freeze”. Attachment therapy can help you identify, process, and address the lingering subconscious issues that originated in your child's attachment style and may have hampered healthy human development.

Attachment therapy helps to heal attachment wounds and can offer a sense of security that can benefit adult relationships. An attachment-based therapist can also help increase self-esteem and self-confidence, while helping the individual gain a sense of security and emotional balance in their life.

How Attachment-Based Therapy Can Help You

Attachment-based treatment can help with building relationships, but those who don't have strong early attachment may also have other challenges to deal with. Attachment therapy can also help with other negative effects of poor attachment on mental health, such as anxiety disorders, depressive symptoms, eating disorders, and other mental health conditions.

Healthy connections can affect how we interact with life in so many ways: interpersonal relationships, mental health, and even physical health. Attachment-based therapy is a way to heal poor attachments that impede our ability to make healthy connections.

Get Started with Attachment Therapy

Attachment-based therapy is one of many evidence-based practices in psychotherapy, which means there is empirical support that it can be effective. If you suspect that your mental health or relationship challenges may be due to poor attachment styles, then search for an attachment-based therapy practitioner in your area. Attachment-based treatments can allow you to process negative emotions and learn to create positive interactions in your life.

Attachment-Based Therapy in Austin, TX

An anxious attachment formed in childhood can have an impact on your life today, creating challenges in interpersonal relationships and causing anxiety and distress. But there is help available.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team of experts in clinical psychology offers evidence-based techniques to help process attachment issues, improve emotional regulation, and build healthier relationships.

Give us a call today, and our patient coordinator will help you find the right attachment therapist to help you develop a secure base, create meaningful relationships with others, and find the emotional balance you deserve. 

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

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