“My experience at Newport Academy
changed my life. I learned to trust
people, I learned how to get out of my
own self-will and trust in a power
greater than myself.”

-Dallas, Newport Academy alum

Attachment-Based Therapy

Attachment-Based Family Therapy (ABFT) is an evidence-based approach for treating depression and anxiety in adolescents. ABFT works by repairing damage in the family system and rebuilding trust within the parent-child relationship—providing a solid foundation that promotes authentic connection and enhances teen mental health.

Interpersonal relationships within the family system profoundly affect adolescent well-being. When those relationships are damaged, teens and young adults suffer—as does the entire family. Attachment-based therapy provides a clear path to achieving what both parents and children want most—closer, more meaningful relationships with one another.

Our Family-Centered Approach

At Newport Academy, we recognize that sustainable healing for teens and young adults involves treating the entire family as a holistic unit. Upon admission, families are provided with extensive information about the family therapy work they will be doing at Newport Academy. Parents attend Orientation, where they meet the entire Treatment Team, and are given a designated point person who will answer any questions they might have, update them on progress, and provide support throughout their teen’s healing process. This team member ensures that communication is clear and ongoing throughout treatment.

“When a teen receives empathy and validation from their parents, they feel safe and supported to be more open and honest overall.”

—Barbara Nosal, PhD, LMFT, LADC, Newport Academy Chief Clinical Officer

The family experience at Newport Academy includes the Parent Orientation, weekly family therapy, Family Day every other Saturday, and a Family Intensive Workshop. Communication and education facilitate holistic recovery, as the entire family learns healthier, more harmonious behaviors together. In the attachment-based therapy model, it’s not only the teens and young adults who are given compassion and support—parents are considered equally deserving of empathy and guidance.

Every therapist at Newport Academy is trained in Attachment-Based Family Therapy. In one of their most significant collaborations to date, Guy S. Diamond, Gary M. Diamond, and Suzanne A. Levy—who defined the parameters of ABFT—have worked closely with our clinical staff to integrate this model into all aspects of our treatment approach.

“When a teen receives empathy and validation from their parents, they feel safe and supported to be more open and honest overall.”

—Barbara Nosal, PhD, LMFT, LADC, Newport Academy Chief Clinical Officer

What is Attachment-Based Therapy?

Attachment-Based Family Therapy is a clinical modality developed to improve family and individual challenges associated with adolescent suicide and depression. This approach was inspired by John Bowlby’s attachment theory, which posits that humans have an inherent biological desire for meaningful relationships. However, these connections can be broken or damaged as a result of traumatic events in the family or disruption in the original parent-child bond.

Attachment-Based Therapy techniques rebuild an emotionally protective parent-child relationship, using a carefully structured methodology. The five treatment phases of ABFT provide a clear roadmap, with each step of the process designed to repair ruptures in the attachment relationship—creating a solid foundation that protects teens and young adults against depression and suicide.

Research validates the efficacy of attachment-based therapy in reducing adolescent depression and anxiety, decreasing feelings of hopelessness, reducing suicidal thoughts, and strengthening parent-child bonds.

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Attachment-Based Family Therapy’s Five Treatment Phases

  1. In the first phase, the goal is to find out how trust was lost in the relationship. Hence, the focus is on moving the therapy away from symptoms of attachment disorder. Instead, the therapist shifts the focus toward improving the parent-child relationship.
  2. The next phase involves one-on-one sessions with the therapist and the adolescent. The goal here is for the ABFT therapist to ally with the teen, by learning their interests and strengths. In addition, their discussions focus on the damage that occurred in the parent-child connection
  3. Next, the therapist meets with the parents on their own, offering them support and creating trust. This may entail addressing any attachment issues the parents have.
  4. Step four of ABFT involves bringing the parents and the teenager together to begin healing ruptures. With the help of the therapist, the adolescent expresses their grievances, and the parents show their caring and understanding. Here the foundation is built for a stronger and more secure connection between them.
  5. Finally, the therapist supports the teen in developing independence and doing things outside the home, in order to feel empowered and confident. For parents, the last phase of ABFT includes learning to support their adolescent in becoming autonomous and making choices on their own.