Family Therapists’ Adult Attachment Styles and the Therapeutic Alliance

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A therapist’s adult attachment style may affect their ability to form effective therapeutic alliances. An analysis of semi-structured interviews with 11 family therapists explored the relationship between their adult attachment styles as assessed using a self-report measure and their perceptions of the therapeutic alliance. A framework analysis was employed, using four dimensions of therapeutic alliance: engagement in the therapeutic process, emotional connection to the therapist, safety within the therapeutic system and shared sense of purpose within the family. Responses were compared according to ‘secure’ and ‘insecure’ attachment styles. There were no substantial differences in therapists’ accounts of their approach to engagement and creating a sense of safety, however they differed in their approaches to managing clients’ hostility. ‘Secure’ and ‘insecure’ therapists differed in their emotional connections to family members. Training and supervision could incorporate understanding of attachment style. Suggestions are made for future research based on this exploratory study.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-81
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Family Therapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2016


  • Therapists’ Attachment Styles
  • Therapeutic Alliance
  • family therapy


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