Attachment-Based Family Therapy

Attachment-Based Family Therapy (ABFT) is heavily influenced by John Bowlby’s attachment theory, which posits that humans have an inherent, biological desire for meaningful relationships. Guy Diamond, Gary Diamond, and Suzanne Levy defined the parameters of attachment family therapy in their book Attachment-Based Family Therapy for Depressed Adolescents. Attachment therapy is a proven methodology for using family relationships to treat depression and prevent suicide in adolescents.

What is Attachment-Based Family Therapy?

Attachment-Based Family Therapy (ABFT) is a trust-based and emotion-focused psychotherapy model. Attachment-Based Family Therapy is inspired by attachment theory, which suggests that teen mental health is profoundly affected, in both positive and negative ways, by the nature of interpersonal relationships within the family system. Specifically, it was developed to improve family and individual challenges associated with adolescent suicide and depression. Therefore, by repairing damage within the family, ABFT rebuilds the emotionally protective parent-child relationship.

Attachment-Based Family Therapy delineates five treatment phases, each with distinct goals and strategies. Thus, while the model is trauma-focused, Attachment-Based Family Therapy includes a structural model and a clear roadmap that can lead to healing and recovery. Additionally, therapists use ABFT to foster in-session attachment therapy experiences in which adolescents seek—and parents provide—love and support.

According to attachment theory, a secure attachment develops when parents are sensitive to a child’s needs. As a result, secure attachment supports a child’s development, leading to good emotional regulation skills and feelings of self-worth. Moreover, attachment therapy fosters a therapeutic alliance, reinforcing the primal attachment. This reinforcement creates a solid foundation that protects against depression and suicide.

Sources: American Psychological AssociationAmerican Foundation for Suicide PreventionUS National Library of Medicine (National Institutes of Health)

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