What is Attachment Style Therapy?
By understanding your attachment style and how it impacts your relationships, you can develop healthier patterns of relating to others.
Attachment-style therapy can help you become more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, leading to greater insight and personal growth.
Relationships can be a significant source of stress and anxiety for individuals with insecure attachment styles. Attachment-style therapy can help alleviate these symptoms by providing tools for more secure attachment patterns.
Attachment-style therapy can teach individuals to communicate their needs and feelings more effectively, leading to more fulfilling and satisfying relationships.
If you are struggling with your mental health, substance abuse, or both, we are here to help you regain control over your life. Our 30-day inpatient program is designed to treat a wide variety of mental, behavioral, and co-occurring disorders in a comfortable setting.
We diagnose and treat many mental health disorders, including trauma effects, dual diagnosis, depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and codependency.
Substance use disorders we treat include addiction to alcohol, opiates, fentanyl and prescription opioids, methamphetamine and other stimulants, benzodiazepines, cannabis, and other psychoactive substances.
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Healing Insecure Attachments
Our attachment style is a fundamental aspect of our psychological makeup that develops in our earliest years. It shapes how we relate to others, handle emotions, and view ourselves.
Attachment styles form from our experiences with primary caregivers and whether they met our emotional and physical needs in childhood. We develop a secure attachment style when our caregivers are responsive and nurturing.
However, most people develop an insecure attachment style (i.e. attachment trauma) when their caregivers are inconsistent, neglectful, or abusive.
Understanding your attachment style can help you identify relationship patterns and provide insight into why you may struggle in certain areas.
What is Attachment Theory?
Attachment is a fundamental aspect of human relationships that psychologists have extensively studied for decades. Attachment theory suggests that childhood experiences impact our ability to form and maintain close relationships in adulthood. These attachments influence everything from our communication styles to our ability to trust others.
Humans have an innate need for connection, but our early life experiences can positively or negatively shape our ability to form secure attachments with others. When we experience adverse or traumatic events during early childhood, we develop attachment styles that negatively impact how we create and maintain romantic relationships and friendships as adults.
What are the Different Attachment Styles?
Attachment theory suggests three primary attachment styles, some of which have different subtypes:
- Secure: the individual is comfortable with intimacy, has a positive view of themselves and their partners, and trusts others
- Anxious (anxious ambivalent and anxious preoccupied): the individual is preoccupied with their relationships, has a negative view of themselves, and fears rejection or abandonment
- Avoidant (dismissive avoidant and fearful avoidant): the individual is uncomfortable with intimacy, has a negative view of others, and may withdraw from relationships
Specific behaviors and attitudes towards relationships characterize each attachment style, namely how the person views themselves and others. We'll describe these further below.
Secure Attachment Style
Securely attached people tend to have positive views of themselves and others. They feel comfortable with emotional intimacy and communicate their needs and feelings effectively. People with a secure attachment style are generally trusting, empathetic, and supportive of their partners. They believe that they are worthy of love and that others are trustworthy.
Anxious Attachment Style
Psychologists characterize an anxious attachment style as a strong desire for intimacy and connection but with a fear of rejection and abandonment. Individuals with an anxious attachment style often feel insecure in relationships, constantly seeking reassurance and validation from their partners. They may become overly dependent on their partners or tie their self-worth to their partner's approval.
Anxious Ambivalent Attachment Style
Individuals with an anxious ambivalent attachment style tend to feel anxious and uncertain about whether their attachment figures (parents, romantic partners, or close friends) will be available to them when needed.
They feel a strong need for constant reassurance and attention and become easily engrossed in relationships. Because of this, they may have difficulty focusing on other aspects of their lives, such as work or hobbies.
Anxious Preoccupied Attachment Style
Anxious preoccupied attachment style is another subtype of anxious attachment style. Those with this style tend to have a negative view of themselves and a positive view of others. They fear abandonment, crave intimacy, and are often preoccupied with their relationships. They may cling to their partners, become jealous or possessive, or have difficulty trusting others.
Symptoms of an Anxious Attachment Style
There are many anxious attachment style symptoms, but some of the most common include:
- Fear of abandonment, rejection, or being alone
- Difficulty trusting others
- Seeking constant reassurance and validation
- Feeling overly dependent on others for emotional support
- Problems communicating needs and emotions
- Becoming overly attached, needy, or clingy in relationships
- Believing you're unworthy of love or attention
- Feeling jealous or possessive
- Feeling anxious or panicked when others are "unavailable"
- Struggling to regulate emotions or feeling emotionally overwhelmed
The symptoms of anxious preoccupied attachment and anxious ambivalent attachment are similar. Attachment style therapy can help identify which style you present more and why.
Avoidant Attachment Style
A person with an avoidant attachment style strongly desires independence and autonomy but fears intimacy and vulnerability. They have a favorable view of themselves but negative opinions of others. They may struggle with emotional intimacy and avoid closeness in relationships because they tend to withdraw when things become too intense or when they feel vulnerable.
Dismissive Avoidant Attachment Style
Dismissive avoidant attachment style is a subtype of avoidant attachment style, where people usually appear confident and self-sufficient on the surface. However, they struggle with intimacy and vulnerability inwardly.
Those with this style may feel uncomfortable with emotional intimacy and avoid closeness in their relationships, preferring to keep others at arm's length. They may be dismissive of their partner's needs or emotions, prioritizing independence over intimacy.
Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style
Individuals with a fearful avoidant attachment style, also called disorganized attachment style, have a negative view of themselves and others. While they may desire closeness, they also fear rejection. They tend to feel conflicted about emotional intimacy and struggle with trust issues. This dynamic causes individuals to alternate between seeking out and pushing away their partners.
Symptoms of an Avoidant Attachment Style
Some avoidant attachment style symptoms are:
- Difficulty forming close relationships and maintaining emotional intimacy
- Fear of being rejected or abandoned by others
- Unwillingness to rely on others or ask for help, even when needed
- Tendency to withdraw from social situations or avoid them
- Feeling uncomfortable with physical touch or affection
- Behavior that's emotionally distant or aloof toward others
- Difficulty expressing emotions or discussing personal issues
- A tendency to prioritize independence and self-sufficiency over a connection with others
- A belief that vulnerability is weakness, and a reluctance to be vulnerable with others
- Minimizing the importance of relationships by downplaying emotional connections
You may have a negative attachment style if any of these symptoms feel familiar. But don't worry; it's possible to relearn secure attachments.
Are Attachment Styles Permanent?
It is important to note that attachment styles are not fixed and can change over time, especially with therapy and self-reflection.
Understanding your attachment style can help you better navigate relationships and communicate your needs to your partner. Acknowledging your partner's attachment style can help you better understand their behavior and relationship needs.
How to Fix an Anxious Attachment Style
Attachment styles are just patterns of behavior and thought. Like all patterns, you can change them. If you have an anxious attachment style, there are five steps you can take to help heal and develop a more secure attachment:
- Identify Your Triggers: Knowing what triggers your anxious attachment style can help you understand why you react the way you do in relationships.
- Practice Self-Care: Engaging in activities that promote self-love and self-compassion can help you build a stronger sense of self-worth and reduce your dependence on others for validation.
- Communicate Your Needs: Communicating your needs and emotions clearly and assertively can help you feel more secure in your relationships and reduce your need for constant reassurance.
- Build a Support System: Developing close platonic relationships can provide security and support outside your romantic relationships.
- Seek Professional Help: Working with a therapist specializing in attachment style therapy can help you identify and work through underlying issues contributing to your anxious attachment style.
How to Fix Avoidant Attachment Styles
Those with an avoidant attachment style tend to withdraw from intimacy and avoid emotional closeness with others. If you have an avoidant attachment style, you may find it challenging to form close relationships or struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation.
The good news is that you can change your attachment style and develop healthier relationships. Here are some steps you can take to fix an avoidant attachment style:
Recognize Your Patterns
The first step to changing your attachment style is to become aware of your behavior and thought patterns. Take some time to reflect on your relationships and identify any patterns of avoidance or withdrawal. When you want to withdraw or avoid intimacy, pay attention to your thoughts and emotions.
One of the hallmarks of an avoidant attachment style is a reluctance to be vulnerable with others. But vulnerability is essential for building close relationships. Practice sharing your thoughts and emotions with someone you trust, even if it initially feels uncomfortable. Start with small things and gradually work your way up to deeper conversations.
Challenge your Beliefs
People with avoidant attachment styles often hold beliefs that reinforce their avoidance of intimacy, such as "I don't need anyone" or "people will only hurt me." These beliefs can be deeply ingrained, but they are not necessarily true. Challenge these beliefs by looking for evidence that contradicts them. For example, think about times when someone has been there for you when you needed them.
Learn to Regulate Emotionally
People with avoidant attachment styles often struggle with emotional regulation, meaning they have difficulty healthily managing their emotions. Regulating your emotions and anxiety can help you feel more comfortable in intimate relationships. Practice mindfulness, deep breathing, or other relaxation techniques when overwhelmed.
Finally, if you are struggling to change your attachment style on your own, seek the help of a therapist. A therapist can help you identify and challenge your beliefs, practice vulnerability, and develop healthier relationships. Look for a therapist who specializes in attachment theory or interpersonal relationships.
What is Attachment Style Therapy?
People crave intimacy, and not knowing how to preserve it long-term can feel isolating and draining. Attachment Style Therapy (also called attachment based therapy) is a therapeutic approach that focuses on helping individuals understand their attachment patterns and how they influence their relationships.
Attachment Style Therapy typically begins by assessing the individual's attachment style. The therapist will ask questions about the individual's childhood experiences and current relationships to identify patterns and underlying issues. Once the therapist has identified the attachment style, they will work with the individual to develop new strategies for forming healthy relationships specific to that attachment style.
By identifying your attachment style, you can work through any underlying issues that may be causing your relationship problems. It can also help you develop healthier attachment patterns, promoting secure and lasting connections.
What Are the Benefits of Attachment Style Therapy?
One of the primary benefits of Attachment Style Therapy is that it can help individuals develop a greater sense of self-awareness.
By understanding their attachment style and how it influences their behavior, people can begin to make conscious choices about how they interact with others. This knowledge can help individuals break free from unhealthy relationship patterns and develop more meaningful and fulfilling connections with others.
Attachment Style Therapy also helps individuals overcome relationship problems. Addressing underlying attachment issues helps us learn to communicate more effectively, build trust, and develop a greater sense of intimacy with our partners. These healthier patterns lead to more fulfilling and satisfying relationships, promoting personal growth and happiness.
Attachment Style Therapy with Sequoia Behavioral Health
Attachment Style Therapy is a valuable therapeutic approach to help individuals overcome relationship problems and develop healthier attachment patterns. By identifying your attachment style and working through any underlying issues, you can develop greater self-awareness and build meaningful connections with others.
If you're struggling with relationship problems, consider contacting us for a consultation to help you develop the skills you need to form healthy and lasting connections. The care we provide is one-to-one and integrative.
Why Trauma Care?
Many behavioral health problems, including attachment styles, revolve around past traumas. Because of this, Sequoia Behavioral Health places trauma treatment at the heart of our approach. Trauma care looks at symptoms and their causes simultaneously. We personalize our practices because we recognize that no two clients will ever have the same needs or experiences.
We administer trauma-focused treatment with six guiding principles in mind:
- Trustworthiness & Transparency
- Peer Support
- Collaboration & Mutuality
- Empowerment & Choice
- Cultural, Historical & Gender Issues
By centering our programming around these values, we create an environment where you can feel safe, comfortable, and ready to heal at your own pace. Contact us today to get started on your journey.