Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Finding the right treatment: Attachment as a guide

In Brief

Finding the right treatment: Attachment as a guide

It's known that several kinds of psychotherapy are effective treatments for depression, but little is known about which ones are best for which patients. A study conducted at the University of Toronto suggests that it may help to consider attachment styles — the patterns of feeling, thought, and behavior that develop as we learn, mainly through childhood experiences, to balance the need for support with the desire for independence.

According to attachment theory, secure attachment in adult life is based on a deep conviction that others will be available for support when needed. Insecure attachment takes several forms; in this study, the researchers compared attachment anxiety with attachment avoidance.

People with an avoidant attachment style tend to minimize the importance of close relationships. They value thought rather than feeling, often seem cool and remote, and retreat when threatened with intimacy. People with an anxious attachment style are more likely to seek contact and support from others, but their personal relationships are volatile and they are hypersensitive to what they see as rejection or abandonment.

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