Attachment Therapy Essentials for Mental Health
Awareness Education

Attachment Therapy Essentials for Mental Health


Originated by the theory that suggests, our ability to form meaningful bonds and healthy relationships as an adult is primarily dependent on our relationship dynamics and attachment style as a child with our primary caregiver, This therapy aims to build the trust back in an individual to help or prevent him/her from several mental health conditions. This is a brief process-oriented therapy focusing on the attachment style of an individual and their ability to form or maintain healthy relationships. Attachment therapy is often used to address issues like childhood trauma, abuse, abandonment of the child or neglect, anxiety, depression etc. Let’s understand what it is and when and why we use it.

Read More: Why Teenagers Misbehave With Their Caregivers?

This therapy primarily works with people who require rebuilding trust in their relationships as it is often found that people having insecure attachment styles formed in their early stages of life tend to find it challenging to build meaningful interpersonal relationships and cohesiveness with others. But why it is called secure or insecure? To answer this question we need to first understand the origin of this therapy.

Attachment Theory and Attachment Therapy

This theory was founded by the works of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth in the 1960s. Their works on this theory primarily focus on the relationship between a child and their primary caregiver. If the child and the primary caregiver share a healthy bond the child will have a secure attachment style and will be able to form loving and healthy relationships with others, but if the bond lacks love, support, and care, the child might form an insecure attachment style which might affect his ability to form interpersonal relationships as an adult. These styles can be majorly divided into 4 different types, they are:

  • Insecure-ambivalent attachment: When the child feels anxious and distressed if the caregiver leaves and is suspicious of strangers, he/she might have an insecure ambivalent attachment style. This child will not be comforted or reassured when the parent returns.
  • Disorganized Attachment: As the name suggests, these children might not select a particular insecure attachment style, they will have a mix of both ambivalent and avoidant attachment styles. They are either confused or frightened by the presence of the caregiver.
  • Secure attachment: When the child depends on the caregiver. If the caregiver leaves the child might feel upset for a moment but has assurance that they will come back, he/she might have a secure attachment style. This child will seek reassurance from their caregiver as they have formed a healthy and trustful relationship with each other.
  • Insecure-avoidant attachment: When the child avoids any type of interaction or intimacy with the caregiver, doesn’t rely on their primary caregiver and shows no preference between the caregiver and stranger, he/she might have formed an avoidant attachment style. This child will not feel comforted around their parents and might even avoid their caregiver’s presence.

The above styles are one of the key contributing factors in an individual’s interpersonal behaviour and how he/she perceives themselves and the world around them. People having secure attachment, develop better self-esteem and efficacy as adults. They believe in the importance of having fulfilling relationships in a person’s life, but they also rely on themselves and have a sense of purpose in their lives. On the other hand, childhood neglect, abuse and abandonment can cause insecure attachment styles and these people are more prone to be in an anxious or avoidant relationship with others.

Read More: How Does a Child Develop Attachment Style?

Areas Cover in an Attachment Therapy

The therapy can be used as an individual, group, family or couple therapy to help an individual with the symptoms of this disorder and can be incorporated whenever an individual:

  1. Avoids intimacy.
  2. Lacks commitment.
  3. Suspicious of others’ behaviour.
  4. Poor self-esteem and self-efficacy.
  5. Struggles with being emotionally vulnerable.
  6. Struggles building healthy relationships with others.
  7. Pushes people away and is reluctant to express love for others.
  8. Has fear of abandonment– believes everyone will leave them or abandon them.

This therapy is particularly used with anyone who has experienced trauma as a child or has some distorted idea of relationships. Trauma therapy can help people rebuild trust in fulfilling relationships, reducing the fear and anxiety of attachments. It can be used with anxiety disorders, depression and trauma and help individuals develop meaningful relationships. The goal is to feel safe and comfortable in showing emotions and vulnerability to others and share a deep understanding of each other in a relationship.

Read More: Emotional Attachment with School Memories at Adult Age

Effectiveness of Attachment Therapy

The main idea of using this therapy is to repair and rebuild bonds of trust. The therapist can work alone with the client experiencing issues with their attachment styles and can also work with the family or partner in a family counselling or couple counselling set-up. In individual therapy, the therapist will delve deep into the client to their early experiences which have formed their attachment style to help him/her overcome the issues with establishing meaningful relationships, showing emotional vulnerability and having commitment. This particularly contributes to overcoming the client’s initial resistance to expressing his/her feelings to the therapist.

The therapist might work with the family or the partner later to improve their equation–to help the client build a more meaningful bond. Although this form of therapy is used especially for curing the scars, like other forms of therapy this also depends on some factors. The main factors that can contribute to an effective therapeutic technique are;

  • Willingness for Introspection: the client must be ready to delve deep into their thoughts and ideas to identify the origins of their issues and reciprocate with the therapist.
  • Making progress and moving towards betterment: the goal of therapy is the empowerment and betterment of an individual. Making progress is a part of the goal and if the client is ready to make the progress towards their betterment with the therapist the therapy becomes successful and effective at its core.
  • Willingness of the client: no matter what type of intervention you take it is the client’s willingness and determination to become a better version of themselves. Therapy is often stigmatized and people are generally unwilling to seek or continue with a therapy. The effectiveness of this therapy also depends on the willingness and determination of the client.

Read More: Self-regulation Tips for People with Anxious Attachment

This therapy as the name suggests, is relational, meaning it is dependent on the person and others with whom he/she interacts daily. That is the reason why the effectiveness increases when it is in a group, family or couple therapy setting. This type of therapy is most effective with kids and young adults having anxiety, depression, trauma and indulging in self-harm or suicidal thoughts. This therapy may be used in conjunction with other forms of therapeutic techniques to get the most accurate and best results.

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