top of page
Coffee and Book

Attachment-Based Therapy
For Adults

What is Attachment-Based Therapy?


Attachment-based therapy is a therapeutic modality based around attachment theory. Within attachment theory, there are 4 types of attachments humans develop from childhood​. Our attachment styles affect the way we 'attach' in all relationships;  friends, relatives and romantic partners.

Often, our romantic relationships are most affected by our attachment styles.

Looking at some of the problematic patterns you may have in relationships through the lens of attachment theory, can be greatly therapeutic. It can teach us to work towards "earned secure attachment" or to reinforce the security we feel already, to ultimately live and breath in more comfortable and satisfying relationships.

Attachment-based therapy is an open ended therapy, which means; the end of the process is decided by yourself and your therapist, however neither of you are preoccupied with it. The ending itself is one of the most important parts of any therapy, creating healthy detachment, therefore it is recommended that when you begin to feel that the ending is approaching, you should consider raising it with your therapist so that you can explore it and end therapy when it feels just right, thus creating healthy detachment from the therapeutic relationship.


What is Attachment Theory?

British psychologist John Bowlby was the first attachment theorist. He described attachment as a "lasting psychological connectedness between human beings."

Bowlby was interested in understanding the anxiety and distress that children experience when separated from their primary caregivers, and what affect that would have later in life with other people.

Attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Bowlby believed that the earliest bonds formed by children with their caregivers have a tremendous impact that continues throughout life. He suggested that attachment also serves to keep the infant close to the mother, thus improving the child's chances of survival - which is something that as we grow, develop and become adults, we unconsciously remember - survival is crucial, no matter the age.

When we try to make sense of our adult relationships, we need to also think about our early childhood relationships. After all, our parents/caregivers taught us how to behave as humans, what 'normal' relationships look like, and how we feel in response - they most likely did this indirectly, at an unconscious level. They taught us who was there, who wasn't, how they responded to stress, our needs etc. All of this has the potential to directly affect us as children, and with this in mind, those early relationships determine how we function in relationships in our adult life.

So what are the 4 Attachment Styles?

There are four patterns of attachment:

  • Anxious/Ambivalent attachment: A person with this attachment style likely became very distressed in childhood when a parent would leave. As a result of poor parental availability, these children could not depend on their primary caregiver to be there when they needed them, physically or emotionally.

    • ​People with an Anxious/Ambivalent attachment style:

      • Can be incredibly generous and attentive to those who they care about, sometimes to their own detriment.

      • Are sensitive to what they perceive as abandonment.

      • Will readily tell someone how they feel.

      • Tend to blame their feelings on others ("You made me feel this way")

  • Dismissive/Avoidant attachment: A person with this attachment style may have avoided parents or caregivers in their childhood, showing no preference between a caregiver and a complete stranger. This attachment style might be a result of abusive or neglectful caregivers. Children who are punished for relying on a caregiver will learn to avoid seeking help in the future.

    • ​People with an Dismissive/Avoidant attachment attachment style:

      • Are self-reliant; good at dealing with situations on their own.

      • Arn't likely to complain, but will show displeasure indirectly.

      • Talks about things and ideas, not about themselves or emotions.

      • Are more likely to report, or be reported as having memory issues.

      • Prefer to deal with conflict in the quickest way possible, even if it means cutting corners or avoiding altogether.

  • Fearful/Disorganised attachment: A person with this attachment style may have displayed a confusing mix of behaviour in childhood, seeming disoriented, dazed, or confused. The child did not know what to expect, nor did the child know when the caregiver will meet their needs, if at all. They may have avoided or resisted the parent. Lack of a clear attachment pattern is likely linked to the inconsistency of the caregivers behaviour. In such cases, parents may have served as both a source of comfort and fear, leading to disorganised behaviour.

    • ​People with an Fearful/Disorganised attachment style:

      • Have trouble believing that their partner will love and support them as they are. 

      • Can be self-sabotaging in relationships and can end relationships prematurely.

      • Expect and predict that they will be rejected by their partner (self-fulfilling prophecy).

      • Consider others close to them as unpredictable.

  • Secure attachment: A person with this attachment style was able to depend on their caregivers to show distress when separated and joy when reunited. Although the child may have felt upset, they also felt assured that the caregiver would return. When frightened, a securely attached child would have been comfortable seeking reassurance from caregivers. This is the most common attachment style.

Attachment is a huge subject and it's important to recognise that your attachment, although will be 1 of 4, is unique to you and your lived experience. You'll likely agree and disagree with some of the traits you read regarding your attachment style. Therapy can help identify your unique traits and allow you to work on those patterns of behaviour that no longer serve you in your relationship(s).

Attachment Style Quiz

If your interested to find out your attachment style - please click here*.

Please note; Questions asked on the quiz can be triggering for some. Some people prefer to do this alone, and others prefer support from their therapist. It's important to be as honest with yourself as you can about your experience from childhood, you will then likely get the most realistic result, and that way, we can work towards better relationship satisfaction.

To learn more about your attachment style and how to help yourself move towards "earned secure attachment", contact one of our therapists and start your journey towards a more successful, fulfilling and secure self.

*The attachment style quiz is a product of MindOnly Pty Ltd and has no affiliation with Private therapy London LTD. PTL uses this quiz for the benefits of clients self study, and to help further educate on attachment. Thank-you 'Attachment Project' for your great work; from the PTL team.

bottom of page