Attachment based therapy is a fancy way to say that the therapy you are doing is based on the premise that the way you were brought up affects the way you behave today.
As I mentioned in my blog, What’s Your Attachment Style, your interpersonal style was created in relationship. Additionally, the interpersonal styles of your children are being created through their relationships to you.
Secure vs. Insecure Attachment
The short version of that blog is that you have either a “secure” or one of three variants of an “insecure” attachment style. The particular pattern of relating that each style uses will predominate the way relationships unfold for you, and is a major cause of any problems you have in relating to people.
In 1996, attachment researchers determined that the percentages of secure vs. insecure attachment were 55% secure, 45% insecure. In 2013, those same researchers hypothesized that percentages were more like 50/50. What this means is that half the population is not able to maintain a committed, stable relationship, and that their children are developing insecure attachment styles that will lead them to sup-optimal interpersonal relationships.
Attachment Based Therapy
In attachment based therapy the goal is to uncover your less-than-optimal patterns of interaction, and through relationship, change them. Unfortunately, these patterns are generally unknown to you because they are “just the way you are,” or you have found ways to limit their expression through will power.
As in all of your close relationships, over time the patterns will emerge during the interactions you have with the therapist. This is the point at which people often leave therapy because they do not want to tolerate and talk about some of their thoughts and feelings that begin to emerge during the process. It is not easy, but it is the work that must be done for any long-lasting therapeutic effect to occur.
The reason it has to occur is because uncovering and changing attachment patterns can’t be done on your own. As I mentioned, your personality (the-way-you-are) was created in relationship, and to change, you must be engaged in a relationship.
You can go a long way to getting better at regulating your emotions through activities such as mindfulness and meditation, but to fundamentally change the firing patterns in your brain that occur when you engage in a relationship with another person, you have to be engaged in a relationship with another person. You must go through emotional ups and downs with them, making it through difficult times without ending the relationship, recognizing your habitual ways of managing those difficult moments, experiencing someone react differently than you expect to your “true” feelings, and eventually reacting to yourself in the same, more accepting way.
“Earned Secure” Attachment Style
When you have repeated the above process enough times, your brain firing patterns will have changed. You will have gained what is called an “earned secure” attachment style. You will be able to engage in a committed, stable, long-term relationship, and you will be available to consistently attune to your children. When you do this, both you and they will be able to feel safe, soothed and secure, and you will thrive.