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 approach to attachment includes the early attachment bonds that you experienced with caregivers as well as those that have been established later in your life. By understanding these relationships, we can identify strengths, patterns, and wounds that you may or may not know are impacting you on a variety of levels. You may or may not have been given the physical or emotional support that you needed when you were young. I am here to provide that experience for you in an environment that is nurturing, safe, and ready for you.

— Sarah Bower Ho, MA, Counselor in Portland, OR

Attachment Theory is about discovering that how a person was cared for & related to in their early years still effects them today especially in close relationships. When we were young we learned if the world was safe or not. To make us feel safe we isolated or became people pleasers. These patterns continue on into adulthood & can be very disruptive in all relationships. There are ways to feel emotionally safe so you can thrive.

— Kathleen Thompson, Licensed Professional Counselor in Portland, OR
 

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

I work from an attachment theory perspective with clients to help us to understand what may have happened in the past to influence current relationships.

— Adriane Kruer, Clinical Psychologist in Los Angeles, CA

Research shows that our early experiences with caregivers impact our relationship styles throughout our lives. When our basic needs are met with love and predictability, we learn to form secure relationships. When our needs are not met in this way, we might protect ourselves by becoming withdrawn and distant, or we may become chronically preoccupied with maintaining closeness. By understanding our attachment styles, we can work towards creating secure, enriching connections in our lives.

— Kendra Kirsonis, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Seattle, WA
 

The template for how we experience being in relationships is formed in our earliest interactions with primary caretakers. This template guides much of what we expect to happen in our current relationships. The good news is that this template can be gently explored and changed. With my support and direction, you can work in mindfulness to study the subtle urges to move toward or away from the people you care about and learn how to set appropriate boundaries and take appropriate emotional risks.

— Melissa Yeary, Counselor in Portland, OR

As a foundation for human development, attachment theory is a primary foundation of my work with kids & families. I've studied in college & graduate school, and continue with professional development in this area, building each new tool and approach on this bedrock. My certification in Therapy with Adoptive & Foster Families focused on attachment, as well as professional conferences I still attend. The parent-child approaches I use emphasize this theory.

— MereAnn Reid, Licensed Professional Counselor Intern in Portland, OR
 

Understanding our attachment style is greatly helpful in seeing how we relate in the world, and what we can do to change behaviors that are no longer serving us.

— Risha Nathan, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in New York, NY

Dynamic maturational model of attachment (Dr. Patricia Crittenden). Understanding the individual's protective attachment strategy reduces pathology and blame, instead helping make sense out of the way they have been connecting with others. Together we can expand your attachment strategy so you can increase the rewards of interacting with others.

— Lena Sheffield, Licensed Professional Counselor in Miami, FL
 

As an attachment therapist, I am well versed in the needs of babies and children and the ways these create trauma and future problems as adults. If our parents did not teach our brains how to regulate our emotions, we do not magically gain these skills later, and often experience trauma or anxiety as a result. In couples & parenting work I help couples/parents recognize and unlearn the attachment styles they learned as children showing up in their relationship to be effective partners & parents.

— Linnea Logas, Counselor in Minneapolis, MN

From a somatic therapy perspective, Attachment Theory stems from our deepest need for inner nourishment, sacred knowing and a steady foundation. From the core of our being outward, a steady sense of safety and security sets the stage for a healthy nervous system and well-developed, wakeful sense of self. Regardless of one's childhood, life has way of interrupting our safety and security, which can be re-patterned, recharged and renewed in a warm therapeutic relationship.

— Caroline Gebhardt, Associate Professional Counselor in Decatur, GA
 

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

My studies in attachment theory began in grad school and continued with Stan Tatkin, who developed the Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy. Stan’s training focused on developing secure attachment for couples to regulate physical and emotional stress. I’ve adapted Stan’s work so that the same stress relieving and security building behaviors can be applied from an inner parent to an inner child. Secure attachment within the self then fosters security in all relationships.

— Julie Levin, Marriage & Family Therapist in Pleasant Hill, CA
 

Fundamentally, I am an attachment theorist. I have extensively studied Interpersonal Neurobiology, and frequently use IPNB approaches in treatment. Our ability to regulate stems directly from the co-regulation we experienced (or did not experience) in early childhood, and affects our regulation and relationships today. In sessions we explore this relationship toward optimal relationships--internally and with others.

— kaseja wilder, Counselor in Eugene, OR

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
 

Each of us is born with a desire and a need to be attached to those we love. Knowing that attachment leads to emotional, mental and physical health, I am honored to help my clients explore how to develop a healthy, happy attachment with others in their lives.

— Elizabeth Pankey-Warren, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Boca Raton, FL

I have been studying attachment theory since 2005. In graduate school, I learned what anxious/preoccupied attachment was, and my practice has been designed to serve people with that attachment style. It goes by different names: people-pleasing, codependency, anxious attachment. Attachment theory, in a nutshell, is this: people heal through relationships. If we don't have supportive and stable relationships in early life, we struggle to feel worthy, loveable, and safe later on. But, early hardship does not necessarily spell disaster. People can heal throughout the lifespan from all kinds of trauma. Having a compassionate, safe companion for the grieving and sorting through can make all the difference. I have participated in my own therapy-- probably 9-10 years' worth by now. I know the power of how safe relationships transform us-- and that is what attachment theory is all about.

— Ann Stoneson, Licensed Professional Counselor in Austin, TX
 

Attachment Theory is about discovering that how a person was cared for & related to in their early years still effects them today especially in close relationships. When we were young we learned if the world was safe or not. To make us feel safe we isolated or became people pleasers. These patterns continue on into adulthood & can be very disruptive in all relationships. There are ways to feel emotionally safe so you can thrive.

— Kathleen Thompson, Licensed Professional Counselor 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
 

Our relationship with our selves and others begins with our experience of attachment to our caregivers. Attachment is a huge part of our behaviors in relationship with everyone in our lives- our partners, children, parents, families, and friends.

— Emelie Gagliardo, Licensed Professional Counselor in Portland, OR

Our earliest experiences with love and acceptance (or the lack of love and acceptance) have a profound impact on our ability to create and maintain loving and stable relationships as an adult. By understanding how those early traumas - we can find ways to disconnect them from our emotional lives today. Through this process, we can move forward to create new, healthy and lasting new attachments.

— Jacob Brown, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Corte madera, CA

I have studied Attachment Theory in the guise of my adoption work. Many adopted children have struggled with making successful attachments to their adopted families and/or in subsequent relationships as they mature due to the break in their original attachment object, their birth mother. A child can also have attachment difficulties if the parent is not emotionally available, is abusive, mentally ill or an addict.

— Laurie Levine, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Herndon, VA
 

I have been studying attachment theory and attachment-informed therapeutic approaches since 1997.

— Anita Stoll, Clinical Social Worker in Austin, TX

I incorporate mindfulness-based methods of Hakomi, Recreation of Self (RC-S), attachment work, and trauma resourcing. I have extensive training learning these modalities through ongoing practice and supervision, through previous internship experience, and training with Mindful Experiential Therapy Approaches (M.E.T.A.).

— Stuart Malkin, Counselor in Portland, OR
 

In my graduate studies, I chose to focus on attachment theory because of its widespread validity across different cultures and its usefulness to both explain human suffering and provide a path for healing. I continue to read up on new developments and receive supervision from an expert in the field.

— Jennifer Newbloom, Counselor in Seattle, WA
 

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

Our ability to connect with others in intimate relationships derives from our attachment with our primary caregiver as children. Understanding this can build awareness to help clients become unstuck and work towards repairing those damaged attachments in order to have healthier connections in relationships.

— Aaron Potratz, Counselor in Tigard, OR
 

Research shows that our early experiences with caregivers impact our relationship styles throughout our lives. When our basic needs are met with love and predictability, we learn to form secure relationships. When our needs are not met in this way, we might protect ourselves by becoming withdrawn and distant, or we may become chronically preoccupied with maintaining closeness. By understanding our attachment styles, we can work towards creating secure, enriching connections in our lives.

— Kendra Kirsonis, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Seattle, WA

I am on the national roster for Child-Parent Psychotherapy, the evidence-based practice to support healthy attachment relationships in young children (ages birth to five) and their caregivers. I think about everything through an attachment lens and know that a young child's relationship with their primary caregiver is the most important thing in that child's life. Additionally, I am trained to facilitate Circle of Security Parenting groups, to build secure attachments in young children.

— Samantha Pugh, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Lafayette, CO
 

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

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
 

Attachement theory was initially developed by John Bowlby, a behavioral psychologist, who noted that primates will choose proximity to a comforting caregiver, over the option of food. This marked the importance of relationships in human evolution and survival. Further research, by developmental psychologist, Mary Ainsworth, in the 60's and 70's found that we have different attachment styles based on our early experience with caregivers. Some of us are more anxious, when we are in relationships, while others are more avoidant and or a mix of those two emotional experiences. These are patterns that tend to show up, over and over again, as we attempt to have relationships in our adulthood. Gaining insight about these patterns and working through these patterns with a therapist can be greatly helpful in creating more secure and satisfying relationships.

— Addie Liechty, Clinical Social Worker in Oakland, CA

Our original bonds with our parents or caregivers determine so much of who we are, how we relate to others and what we believe about ourselves. It's everything really, and if it goes unchecked then we don't get the opportunity to unfold who we truly are, to question negative beliefs that might be preventing us from embracing life.

— Natalia El-Sheikh, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Castro Valley, CA
 

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

Attachment theory is a psychological model that attempts to describe the dynamics of long-term and short-term interpersonal relationships between humans. It addresses how human beings respond within relationships when hurt, separated from loved ones, or perceiving a threat. In other words, attachment theory explains how the connection between a parent and a child in early childhood influences subsequent development in a teenagers and adults.

— Filippo M. Forni, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA

Like or not, we are deeply imprinted by the quality of our earliest experiences with our parents or caregivers. Clearly identifying how those relationships have shaped us is crucial in beginning any therapy. Deciding on ways to mend the wounds that exist for the majority of us is most of the journey. They say "I married my father/mother" for a reason--and no amount of "insight" can change it--only deep healing work can.

— Eli Hastings, Marriage & Family Therapist in Seattle, WA
 

Attachment theory developed from the study of preverbal children and their behavior regarding their caregivers. Children were categorized as either having secure attachment, anxious-ambivalent attachment, anxious-avoidant attachment, or disorganized attachment. It was discovered that the attachment style of children mirrored that of their primary caregiver. Attachment applies to adults when adults feel close attachment to their parents, their romantic partners and friends.

— Tony Filanowski, Clinical Social Worker in New York, NY

Research shows that our early experiences with caregivers impact our relationship styles throughout our lives. When our basic needs are met with love and predictability, we learn to form secure relationships. When our needs are not met in this way, we might protect ourselves by becoming withdrawn and distant, or we may become chronically preoccupied with maintaining closeness. By understanding our attachment styles, we can work towards creating secure, enriching connections in our lives.

— Kendra Kirsonis, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Seattle, WA

Our earliest relationships form the templates for how we interact and what we expect from others. These patterns live in our body and in the ways that we engage with (or avoid) others. Over the past 10 years, I have learned how to recognize and work with individual attachment styles and relationship patterns through my in-depth studies with Bonnie Badenoch, PhD, LMFT.

— Marc Otto, Creative Art Therapist in Portland, OR
 

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

Working with attachment theory means I pay close attention to how a person shows up in relationships which includes strangers.

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

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. If you have a better relationship with your iphone than with your partner, attachment focus therapy could help!

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

I have trained in Diane Poole Heller's attachment model and therapy. I am also extensively training in Internal Family Systems and Ego States Therapy. Both are holistic and powerful therapies based on the latest science that support the multiplicity and complexity of the brain and the psyche. We all have parts of self, or states of consciousness, with roles that help us function in society and that protect us defensively. However, when we feel overwhelmed these parts become more extreme, and when trauma history was repetitive, parts feel more and more separate from our sense of self. IFS and Ego States therapy are gentle approaches that heal us from the inside out, accessing the client's inner world and bringing balance and deep healing. Finding your true sense of self and leading from within. ​

— Stacy Ruse, Licensed Professional Counselor in Longmont, CO