Attachment Theory

Attachment theory, first developed by John Bowlby, is a psychology concept focused on the importance of attachment in relation to personal development. According to Bowlby’s theory, attachment is not a one-time event, but an ongoing process that begins at birth and continues through the first years of life. Fundamental to attachment theory is the belief that a child's relationship with the primary caregiver (usually the mother), affects their attachment style for the rest of their life. Unresolved or insecure attachment issues experienced in early childhood can have a negative impact on relationships into adulthood. A therapist who specializes in attachment theory can help.  Reach out to one of TherapyDen’s experts today!

Meet the specialists

My work is relationally based and attachment informed. I believe that a secure attachment is the route to health and happiness. My goal is to help your child develop and strengthen their secure attachment in order to help them work through their anxieties. By creating a consistent, comfortable, and accepting environment; I model what a secure attachment looks and feels like. Your child will learn how to successfully navigate life's interpersonal challenges in a safe environment.

— Ashley Boyer, Psychologist in San Francisco, CA

Our early childhood relationships and experiences provide a blueprint for how we see ourselves, our relationships, and the world around us. Are people there for us? Is this world safe or should I remain guarded? Am I alone or can I rely on others? Can I find trustworthy people? It can be extremely helpful to know what your attachment style has been in your life and also hold onto hope that you can move into a place of security with others.

— Heather Lokteff, Licensed Professional Counselor in Lake Oswego, OR

I overlay attachment theory over much of the work I do, as it provides a strong foundation for understanding how past hurts and relationships have impacted current emotional communication patterns, trust, relationship building etc. Understanding and applying attachment theory provides clients with great insight to themselves and their relationships.

— Lacy Alana, Counselor in , TX

We learn from our past experiences. I believe anything learned can be unlearned and new beliefs can be put in their place.

— Janice Shapiro, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Campbell, CA

We are relational beings, motivated by a need to survive that was once dictated by our very own development. Every person has a story of how they met their survival needs for love and attention. This style becomes the main drive, thereby disconnecting us from our authentic selves and placing us in a stuck-ness or feeling of limitation. Through gaining an awareness for how we are wired towards fear, we can begin to rewire ourselves towards a feeling of freedom and expansion.

— Karly Meola, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA

Attachment is at the very core of what is is to be human. My training and experience working with traumatized individuals has lent itself to an attachment-based framework in which I know how to safely and effectively emphasize the therapeutic relationship and the ways in which faulty attachment disrupts our ability to self-regulate, develop, and grow. We must feel safe in relationship in order to have the bandwidth for deeper healing.

— Emma Shearer, Licensed Professional Counselor Associate in Atlanta, GA

So much of what we do is rooted in our upbringing. In attachment based therapy, we like to look closely at the relationships you had with your caregivers as a child and understand more about your early development environment. By uncovering your specific attachment style, we can then see how your current behaviors are a reflection of that attachment style and then you are more able to alter the behaviors that don't serve you.

— Lauren Mason, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in San Diego, CA

We learn strategies to connect with others early on in life. Connection is a survival strategy that is central to the human experience. In order to survive when we are young sometimes we have to employ strategies that don’t serve us later in life. These strategies that are unhelpful are important to address in the context of therapy in order to promote healing and healthier ways of connecting with others. I like to approach this work from a compassionate and non-shaming stance.

— Chelsea Twiss, Psychologist in Fort Collins, CO

I'm a certified Lifespan Integration therapist. This therapy focuses heavily on early childhood attachment and can effectively address attachment issues.

— Jesse Spivack, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Seattle, WA

Attachment work originally began with John Bowlby and was defined as "lasting psychological connectedness between human beings." Attachment theory explains how the relationship between a parent and child emerges and how that relationship then influences an individual's development. I work with individuals to get a thorough understanding of their attachment development to understand more about what they may be encountering emotionally and cognitively; as individuals and within relationships.

— Jon Soileau, Licensed Professional Counselor in Kansas City, MO

I became a certified trainer in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) through UC Davis in 2016. PCIT is a combination of attachment and behavior therapy and is an evidenced based practice that improves the attachment between child and parent. Helping the child feel safe and secure in their relationship with their parent will help shape that child's future. I have helped numerous families graduate from PCIT and they report astounding positive changes to their relationship.

— April Weir, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA

I have worked in foster care and adoption for over six years, and I have received on-going training over the past 10 years in attachment and trauma informed care. Becoming aware of how our past has influenced our safety and trust in others, helps with healing broken or ruptured attachments and improving our relationships with others.

— Danielle Ensley, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Roseville, CA

Our culture's over emphasis on individuality and self-reliance often harms and shames our very human need for contact, togetherness and interdependence. Attachment theory can shed light on the ways in which our original experiences with our caregivers make intimacy in adulthood feel strained, dangerous or even impossible.

— Pilar Dellano, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in San Francisco, CA

I have worked in foster care and adoption for over six years, and I have received on-going training over the past 10 years in attachment and trauma informed care. Becoming aware of how our past and has influenced our safety and trust in others, helps with healing broken or ruptured attachments and improving our relationships with others.

— Danielle Ensley, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Roseville, CA

Attachment theory focuses on the central importance of human connections. Connection is a basic human need. The extent to which that need is fulfilled in childhood and throughout the lifespan has lasting consequences on our relationships to self and others. The truth is we all have complicated attachment histories. Therapy is an opportunity to unpack and possibly repair our attachment wounds in a safe and nurturing environment.

— Nicole Suarez-Bronfman, Clinical Social Worker in The Woodlands, TX

The attachment work I do is deep and transformative and sometimes escapes words. I have received specialized Somatic training with Kathy Kain and Stephen J. Terrell which approaches attachment theory work from the bottom up versus the top down. This means bringing my attention to healing the early age physiology first before approaching the adult cognitive brain, which comes second. I also include consciousness and intention around my own attachment style when working on this deep level with clients.

— Vanessa Tate, Marriage & Family Therapist in Denver, CO

Our ways of relating to others often stem from unmet needs of the past. Through our work together, we will identify your attachment style and discover how to navigate current relationships successfully, while processing the potential impact of early life experiences.

— Morgan Grace, Psychotherapist in Austin, TX

As the parent of a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, and 2 other children with attachment issues, I have studied attachment theory at length. I furthered my knowledge throughout my years as an adoption social worker, helping facilitate families attachment to their newly placed children. I have also been certified as an expert in attachment to testify in dependency court.

— Lisa Wittorff, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Portland, OR

The saying goes, 'Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.' We all begin nested in a family of some sort. And the circumstances and skills of that family produce enduring affects on our lives, especially but not only our relationship lives. What happens in the early years of life – the years we mostly don’t remember – sets the template for what is to come. But as we come to understand and reengineer what happened through therapy, our lives improve and we can come to flourish.

— Michael Johnson, Psychologist in AUSTIN, TX, TX

Attachment theory informs my work at a therapist in that I see the importance of the therapeutic relationship as one that feels attentive, responsive and attuned. A rigid attachment approach can feel mother-blaming, but holding the framework in mind can help us understand patterns and needs in relationships, both past and current.

— Eleanor Wohlfeiler, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Oakland, CA

I believe in attachment theory because I have seen again and again the impact of our relationships with people we bonded with growing up on our future relationships. We learned how to connect with others from our caregivers and this often repeats and if unhealthy, can cause issues in our adult relationships with others.

— Jodie Shea, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Huntington Beach, CA

Attachment is foundational to all relational work, whether it be within a partnership, family, or friendship. The Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT) utilizes tenets of attachment theory coupled with biological functions, reactions, and drives to facilitate healing within a partnership. My training in family and group work focuses on the connections and understandings therein and is informed by attachment theory. Animal-assisted therapy also relies heavily on this theory.

— Mackenzie Howshar, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Fort Collins, CO

Our earliest relational experiences are the blueprint to our current interpersonal interactions. Examining attachment styles can help improve communication and boundary setting.

— Nicole Prophet, Licensed Professional Counselor Intern in , OR

Our formative relationships shape who we become, how we think about ourselves, and how we relate to the world. We help you understand how your formative relationships shaped your life and relationships today, giving you greater compassion and kindness to yourself and others, a freedom you haven't known ,and a better ability to understand and change interactions that have cause you frustration and pain.

— Wild Foxgloves Counseling, PLLC, Licensed Professional Counselor Associate in Vancouver, WA

In today's counseling psychology "attachment" has become a buzz word and some of the theory's core values have been lost. From my studies at Mills College for a master's degree in developmental psychology / infant mental health I have researched the attachment theory from the perspective of the theory's core as created by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. The base of attachment theory is relationships at all ages. Through being in relationships our life is not only fulfilling our life expectancy is longer. Relationship provide protection. With the importance of relationships comes the influence on our behavior from the types of relationship we have and had. Therapy with an attachment theory lens explores ones relationships through a life time to discover the strategies developed to obtain love and companionship in the present. Some strategies are less helpful than others... some strategies can be harmful. Knowing the whys can promote change.

— Liz Walker, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Oakland, CA

Learning about attachment theory and styles inspired me to become a therapist.

— Eric Lindberg, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Berkeley, CA