Attachment based Family Therapy

Despite the importance of supporting adolescent developmental needs such as individuation, autonomy and identity, parents continue to be a vital presence in young people's lives. A growing body of evidence indicates that family based therapies may be the most effective intervention for many of the typical problems that adolescents experience, such as running away, depression and attempted suicide, truancy and school refusal, substance abuse, adolescent violence and many delinquent behaviours.

Adolescents learn invaluable skills of emotional regulation, communication and problem solving skills. With practice, parents can temporarily put their own emotional reactions on hold, allowing them to be mindful about their teens’ feelings, thoughts and attachment needs. As a result, parents are better positioned to respond to their teen with sensitivity, promoting a safe haven and secure base and engendering a shared partnership that supports adolescent autonomy. 


Attachment based treatment for parents produces significant reductions in adolescent’s attachment anxiety, attachment avoidance and affect dysregulation, and in turn these changes predict decreases in levels of problem behaviour. 

Attachment Based Family Therapy (ABFT) is an evidenced based approach specifically designed to target family and individual processes associated with adolescence. It is an emotion focused therapy model that aims to repair interpersonal ruptures and rebuild an emotionally protective, secure-based parent-child relationship.


The central premise of attachment theory is that children have a basic evolutionary instinct to seek out parents for care and protection. When children do not have a secure base and do not feel that parents are sensitive and available, they are substantially at a greater risk for having negative developmental outcomes. The challenge of preserving attachment during adolescence becomes compounded with their emerging desire for independence and autonomy.

© 2017

Ayla Garlick 

Heart Matters