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Attachment-Based Therapy


This brief, process-oriented form of counseling ranges from individual therapeutic approaches to public health programs to interventions specifically designed for adoptee parents or foster caregivers. Attachment-based therapy* can target infants or young children who have developed or are at risk of developing less desirable, insecure attachment styles or an attachment disorder.

Attachment-based therapy stems from attachment theory, which hypothesizes how childhood experiences affect an individual’s ability to form meaningful adult relationships. 

Research suggests failure to form secure attachments early in life can have a negative impact on behavior in later childhood and throughout life. Though often recommended for those with negative childhood experiences, this form of therapy can also benefit anyone struggling with difficult relationships or seeking to rebuild trusting relationships. Attachments develop as the result of:

Quality caregiving: When parents respond quickly and consistently, children learn parents are dependable. As children grow older, those who securely attached as infants tend to: 

      • Develop stronger self-esteem and better self-reliance 
      • Become more independent
      • Perform better in school
      • Have successful social and romantic relationships
      • Experience less depression and anxiety

Opportunity for attachment: Children without a primary care figure, such as those raised in orphanages or children adopted after six months, may have a higher risk of attachment problems.

Behavior problems or trauma disorders: Children diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)conduct disorder (CD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) frequently display attachment problems, possibly due to early abuse, neglect or trauma. 

Those who may benefit from attachment-based therapy:

    • Parents seeking to adopt or foster a child
    • Children who have been adopted or placed in foster care
    • Children of parents with anxiety or a mood disorder
    • Children who have experienced abuse or trauma, particularly by a caregiver
    • Depressed and/or suicidal adolescents 


Theoretically, by forming a trusting relationship with parental figures or the therapist, the child is better prepared to form strong bonds in other relationships or handle problems with anxiety or depression. An attachment-based approach—used in individual, couple and/or family therapy, as well as group therapy—can help individuals mend or recover from fractured family relationships.

In therapy:

    • Individuals may explore how the past may have influenced the present, especially early relationships with parents, family dynamics and significant childhood experiences. Guided by the clinician, they may learn skills to improve current relationships, emotions and behaviors. 
    • To repair family relationships, the clinician works with the child or adolescent alone and with the parents and other family members as a group. The goal is to help the family build and strengthen the parent-child bond and help the child develop into an independent, self-sufficient adult.
    • With individual adults, the clinician aims to establish secure bonds as a way to help them overcome the effects of negative early attachment. Once solidified, individuals can communicate more openly and better understand how current feelings and behaviors relate to earlier experiences.

Read more about CFI’s Parenthood Center & treatments we offer… 


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