Even families with the best of intentions can experience misunderstandings, turmoil, and feel pitted against each other. Connection and support in the home is the desired outcome, but it feels unachievable. As parents, your love for your child is abundant, yet you just don’t know how to get through to your youth. As teens, the last place they seem to want to show vulnerability is at home.
There’s a different way to do it, and it’s an evidence-based approach to family counseling that the team at ChangeWell specializes in called Attachment-Based Family Therapy (ABFT).
What is Attachment-Based Family Therapy?
Attachment-Based Family Therapy (ABFT) is an evidence-based family therapy model that is specifically designed to build parent-adolescent alliance for treating depression and preventing suicide in adolescents. The initial step in the treatment involves a commitment from the parent(s) and the teenager to work on mending their relationship before delving into other therapeutic concerns.
This helps family members understand their longing for closeness and trust-building, and then guides adolescents and parents through a process of identifying and discussing perceived attachment failures. These emotionally charged discussions serve as “corrective attachment experiences” that create a new found trust between parent and child.
How Will ABFT Help My Child & Family?
We hear from parents today that the pressures in your household feel insurmountable. It doesn’t help that there are even more ways to disconnect: busy schedules, high tech usage, and navigating all sorts of pressures.
ABFT helps your child feel more secure and emotionally supported by delving into underlying family dynamics to rebuild trust and emotional bonds. Enhanced family communication ensures that your child can express their feelings more effectively, reducing the emotional burden they may carry.
By creating a supportive and emotionally healthy family environment, ABFT acts as a protective factor against depression and self-harm, ultimately promoting your child’s emotional well-being.
ABFT is a brief therpy designed to guide families through 5 specific phases which typically takes between 12 to 16 weeks. Family session last 80 minutes while parent/teen sessions last 50 minutes.
What To Expect From Each Of The 5 Phases
Relational Reframe (1 Session): In your initial session, the focus will shift from specific symptoms to improving your relationship with your child. The goal is for you and your child to understand that the primary aim of treatment is to uncover what has impacted trust in your relationship.
Adolescent Alliance-Building (2-4 Sessions): During these sessions, the therapist will work individually with your child to establish a strong therapeutic connection. This includes discovering your child’s strengths and interests and helping them understand and express any ruptures in their relationship with you.
Parent Alliance-Building (2-3 Sessions Without Your Child): In separate sessions without your child, the therapist will work on building an alliance with you. This involves offering empathy, support, and exploring any attachment issues that may affect your parenting skills.
Resolving Attachment Ruptures (1-4 Sessions): This is the heart of ABFT. The therapist will guide your child in expressing concerns maturely and emotionally-regulated, while encouraging you to express empathy and understanding. This task aims to provide a corrective attachment experience, laying the foundation for a more securely attached parent-child relationship.
Promoting Adolescent Autonomy: The final task involves helping your child become more autonomous and find a balance between receiving your support and taking appropriate responsibility for their behaviors and choices. This phase encourages growth and independence for your child.
Do We Need Family Therapy?
If problems are ongoing and you want support as parents, then family therapy is an option worth exploring. Don’t let it be a last resort, once tensions have been high for too long. Reach out for a free consultation with a ChangeWell Psych family therapist.