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Attachment-Based Therapy



Attachment-based therapy is a brief, process-oriented form of counseling. The client-therapist relationship is based on developing or rebuilding trust and centers on expressing emotions. An attachment-based approach to therapy looks at the connection between an infant’s early attachment experiences with primary caregivers, usually with parents, and the infant’s ability to develop normally and ultimately form healthy emotional and physical relationships as an adult. Attachment-based therapy aims to build or rebuild a trusting, supportive relationship that will help prevent or treat mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Attachment-based therapy developed from the 1960s work of British psychologist John Bowlby, who first proposed that strong early attachment to at least one primary caregiver is necessary for children to have a sense of security and the supportive foundation they need to freely interact with their environment, to explore, to learn from new experiences, and to connect with others.” Based on his work, Bowlby described four different attachment styles: secure attachment, anxious attachment, avoidant attachment, and disorganized attachment. His work has sparked tremendous interest and exploration into attachment styles and how they may inform individuals’ relationships in adulthood. Attachment-based therapy as described here should not be confused with unconventional, unproven, and potentially harmful treatments referred to as "attachment therapy" that involve physical manipulation, restraint, deprivation, boot camp–like activities, or physical discomfort of any kind. These so-called “attachment therapies” were developed in the 1970s as interventions for children with behavioral challenges, particularly those with autism; they have since been investigated and rejected by mainstream psychology and medicine.


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