Resources on Adult Attachment Therapy?
August 18, 2012 9:59 PM   Subscribe

I may be starting adult attachment therapy in the next week, on the advice of a crisis counselor and after a few years of on-and-off treatment for anxiety and depression that's not getting me very far. Point me to some quality, hopefully easy to find resources that can spell out what the experience might be like.

The types of questions I'd like to know more about: what's the theoretical base behind adult attachment theory, how long might I expect to commit to therapy like this before seeing results, what's the primary objective of the therapy (put another way: under what conditions should I consider the therapy to have been successful), what questions should I ask as I speak with therapists, what (if any) are the viable alternative therapeutic approaches for understanding and coping with issues related to intimacy and expectations in relationships.

Throwaway e-mail:

Demographics, if relevant: 24 year old straight male, American.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Attachment Theory originated with the work of John Bowlby. He was generally treated as a heretic by the psychoanalytic establishment of his time but has more recently come into vogue to the point that "attachment" has become almost a brand name. The underlying concept is that a child develops either secure or insecure attachment to a caregiver (or something in between) and that this "base" determines how psychic development may proceed. What was revolutionary for his time is that the theory was research-based. Attachment research continues today with people like Daniel Stern and Beatrice Beebe

So that's theory. What can you expect in practice? If I had to guess (and to an extent, I do) I would say that it would be mainly talk therapy informed by the belief that current relationship difficulties arise out of early attachment problems. Googling "Adult Attachment Therapy" didn't help clarify this beyond my suppositions above. My personal bias is against one-size-fits-all treatment methodologies based on single theories, which is not to say that this particular one size may not be a good fit for you.

Research into therapy outcomes either confirms the biases of the researcher or gives a Dodo Bird verdict which states that all psychotherapies, regardless of their specific components, produce equivalent outcomes with terms like "Attachment", "Evidence Based" , "Cognitive", "Dynamic", etc. being more about the marketing than anything else. This is not to say that individual practitioners don't believe in their theories or that they can't be effective, but that you shouldn't choose them merely by their brand name. If you have a good relationship with the counselor who referred you, then by all means give his referral a try.

My experience is that speed of results varies widely and depends more on the client and the quality of the relationship with the therapist than with the brand name. As to how to evaluate whether therapy is successful, you are the best evaluator in the long run. What do you care if some "objective" measurement says you've improved if you feel worse? In the short run, ask a lot of questions and see how you feel about the answers you get. Be as honest as you can about what goes on in the various interactions and how you feel about it--even if, or especially if, you're not happy with the way things are going. Don't blame yourself for failures, even if you feel like you are responsible since the therapists job includes enabling you to overcome the obstacles you may put in the way of treatment. From an attachment theory standpoint, if you have attachment problems, you will have them with the therapist and his/her job will be to help you navigate through them. I personally see therapy as more like dating than like science, especially if your stated issues concern "intimacy and expectations in relationships." The questions you should ask should include the ones you asked above--not because they're such great questions, but because those are what are on your mind. You want to satisfy your personal concerns, not some objective ones.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:50 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bowlby's work in attachment theory is quite different from attachment therapy.
posted by scratch at 8:34 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

If this site accurately describes attachment therapy for adults, then it's the same "eclectic" mish-mash virtually every therapist I know practices (regardless of what they say they practice). Plus, the laundry list of "symptoms" on that site is all-encompassing *except* it seems to lean toward a "blaming the victim" point of view (calling people with attachment problems manipulative, etc. )

All "depth" psychologies and psychotherapies deal with early experiences and traumata. Except in very few and very specific cases, pinpointing that the problems an adult has are a function, specifically, of early attachment issues seems really dubious.

The original attachment therapy was done with children who were known to have had attachment problems (because they were children, so you had much more information about their early experiences). Plus, as you can see by googling "attachment therapy," this type of touchy-feely therapy is highly controversial and cultish.

I would try to get a referral to a GOOD therapist (i.e. somebody highly recommended) and forget about the recommendation for "attachment therapy" that you got.
posted by DMelanogaster at 4:06 PM on August 19, 2012

Scratch's comment above is right on. Did she say something about attachment theory or attachment therapy. From my understanding, it would be extremely out of place for a crisis clinician to recommend attachment therapy and fairly out of place to say something about attachment theory. They're there to treat a crisis and it would've been unusual to recommend a type of therapy after one crisis encounter.
posted by shushufindi at 7:23 PM on August 19, 2012

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