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What Is Attachment-Based Family Therapy?

a family participates in attachment based family therapy

Note for readers: This page discusses the topic of self-harm. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7 at 988. Or, if you are concerned about an emergency situation, dial 911. 

Raising a teenager can be an overwhelming experience, and even though you are trying your best, your teen might still struggle with their mental health. If you weren’t raised with the compassion and understanding you needed, you might not know how to connect with your own child more closely. Attachment-based family therapy (ABFT) helps nurture open communication and parent-child relationships.

Often, childhood neglect, trauma, or abuse can cause teens to avoid close relationships, which can lead to reactive attachment disorder (RAD) or other mental health conditions. ABFT is a major part of our reactive attachment disorder treatment programming at Family First. Call 888.904.5947 to get help rebuilding your family today.

The Importance of Child-Parent Bonds

Children need to feel safe and loved in order to develop healthy attachment styles. If these needs are not met, they may struggle to form secure attachments with their caregivers. Without secure attachments, children may develop unhealthy coping mechanisms or emotional regulation issues, leading to challenges in their relationships as they get older.

A lack of healthy attachments with their parental unit can also impact their short-term health. Many times, teens struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicide cite their parents as preventative barriers to following through with actions. Without healthy attachment bonds, teens may feel disconnected or unsupported, putting them more at risk of self-harm.

What Is Attachment-Based Therapy for Teens?

ABFT is a type of therapeutic intervention designed to repair ruptured attachments and rebuild trust within families. This therapy is based on the idea that a secure parent-child relationship is crucial for a child’s emotional development and well-being. It aims to strengthen the emotional bond between parents and their troubled teenagers, creating a safe and supportive environment where adolescents can explore their feelings and address their issues.

Attachment-based family therapy is often used in treatment for:

  • Reactive attachment disorder (RAD)
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Self-harm and suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Trauma, abuse, and neglect

By focusing on the parent-child relationship, ABFT can help teens feel more supported and understood by their parents. This can aid in their emotional growth, improve communication skills, and teach them healthier ways to cope with challenges in their lives.

How ABFT Works

In ABFT, therapists work with both parents and teenagers, helping them understand each other’s needs and concerns. The therapy involves several stages, including building an alliance with the teen, redefining the parent-child relationship, promoting autonomy and competency in the teen, and setting up long-term progress.

Building Trust

The first stage of attachment-based family therapy is building an alliance with the teen. The therapist works to establish a trusting relationship with the teenager, providing support and validation for their emotions. This creates a safe space where the teen can feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings.

Redefining the Relationship

The next stage involves redefining the parent-child relationship. The therapist helps parents understand how their own experiences and behaviors may have impacted their child’s attachment style. This allows parents to make changes in the way they interact with their children, fostering a more secure and healthy bond.

Promoting Independence

In this stage, the therapist focuses on promoting autonomy and competency in the teen. This involves helping them develop a sense of self and learn how to cope with challenges in a healthy way. The therapist also works with parents to support their child’s growing independence and guide them through this process.

Setting Up Long-Term Progress

The final stage of ABFT is setting up long-term progress for the family. The therapist helps the family create a plan for maintaining the progress made in therapy and addressing any future challenges that may arise. This can involve setting boundaries, improving communication skills, and finding additional support if needed.

Sessions might be between therapists and teens, therapists and parents, or therapists, teens, and their parents. Each stage is tailored to fit the needs of the family and can be adjusted as needed.

Call Family First to Get Help Now

Our team understands the importance of strong attachments and offers treatment programs that focus on healing family dynamics. Call 888.904.5947 or contact us online now to get your teen the help they need.