Priming attachment security improves attitudes towards a range of therapies

Abigail Millings*, Katherine B. Carnelley, Kate Cavanagh, Anna Wilderspin, Hannah Wiseman, Angela C. Rowe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
166 Downloads (Pure)


We sought to understand how attachment orientation influenced attitudes towards different types of psychological therapies. In two studies, we (1) examined attachment orientation as a predictor of attitudes towards different therapies and (2) tested whether attachment security priming could improve attitudes. Study 1 (n = 339) found associations between attachment orientation and attitudes towards, and likelihood of using different therapies. Positive and negative attitudes about different therapies mediated the relationship between attachment avoidance and likelihood of use. Study 2 (n = 412) showed that primed security (vs. neutral prime) improved attitudes towards relational, non-relational and distanced-relational therapies for those with a fearful-avoidant attachment orientation. For relational and distanced-relational therapies, the mechanism of this effect was increased cognitive openness. Attachment orientation is a determinant of therapy attitudes and anticipated help-seeking behaviour. Priming security may promote open-minded decision-making about some therapies. Findings are discussed with relevance to attachment theory, research and clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-39
Number of pages25
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date8 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Social Cognition


  • attachment
  • security priming
  • therapeutic relationship
  • therapy attitudes


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