Many people have an awful first experience with therapy. They try once, decide that therapy doesn’t work, and go on trying to cope with their lives alone.
For couples it can be even worse. Often, one partner ends up feeling like the therapist has taken sides with their partner to gang up on them.
Not only is this disappointment expensive, it can set you back years in your healing when you’re let down by someone you try to vulnerable with.
After reading this guide you’ll know everything you need to find the right person to work with.
Step 1: Start looking by specialty
In our post-covid world, where we live no longer limits who we can work with. Online therapy is on average as effective as therapy in person, with some people (avoidants) even finding it easier to be vulnerable online.
Just like with your physical health, you’ll get the best results with someone who specializes in what you want to work on. If you want to have a secure attachment style, you’ll get there easiest with a guide who has a metaphorical map.
There are several types of therapy that have developed directly from attachment theory. Anyone trained in these types of therapies know the steps proven to heal attachment traumas.
Therapies developed for other purposes are far less effective on attachment: some studies report only about 35% of relationships that go to cognitive-behavioral couples therapy succeed.
Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT)
This is the gold standard of working with attachment trauma, and my own favorite. Created by Dr. Sue Johnson, the author of Love Sense, it follows specific steps to overcoming unhealthy attachments by… building healthy attachments.
EFT has more research studies supporting it than any other type of couples therapy, with a 75% success rate in resolving anxious-avoidant relationships. Even for the relationships that ended, 90% were happy with the outcome.
And EFT is just as effective for individuals – the therapeutic relationship alone can be powerful enough to help you move to a secure attachment with future partners.
You can find EFT-certified therapists at ICEEFT.com, or check your area for therapists with EFT training.
Imago Couples Therapy
Along with EFT, this boasts the highest success rate of helping couples get out of the anxious-avoidant loop. Designed by a married pair of Psychologists who healed their own attachment issues together, celebrities like Oprah and Alanis Morrissette have credited it with helping their relationships.
For some reason Imago Therapy used their own names for attachment styles (Avoidants are Distancers, Anxious are Clingers), but the theory and practice is all the same.
You can search for Imago-certified therapists at Imagorelationshipswork.com.
This is the newest type of therapy on this list, and it has had little chance to build supporting research. The only one on this list that’s not a relational therapy, it’s designed around releasing trauma stored in the body.
There is some evidence that this is highly effective in clearing attachment trauma, is more widely offered than the other types, and is easily adaptable to an online format.
However, it doesn’t contain any format for learning the lessons to maintain a secure relationship.
Dynamic Attachment Re-patterning experience (DARe)
By Dr. Diane Heller, this is another form of body therapy specifically created for attachment work. I’ve heard great things about it, but I have no personal experience with it – and there are very few people worldwide who offer this.
You can see if any are available at https://dianepooleheller.com/.
First, though, let’s quickly go over the basics when choosing any therapist or coach.
Step 2: Screen your therapists.
It’s important to reach out to at least three therapists when you’re looking, not just one. Therapists are not all equal, and you’ll get better results from the best fit for you than the “best” therapist.
Most therapists prefer a quick call to see if you click with each other before committing to therapy. Use this time to ask about their attachment style, and how they feel about your attachment struggles.
Any therapist who’s unable to answer that is someone who isn’t comfortable with their attachment.
If they haven’t gone to earned secure themselves, they haven’t found an answer. This doesn’t mean they’re a bad therapist, but it does mean your attachment issues won’t get better.
And if they’re unwilling to be open about the struggles they’ve faced in their lives, they’re not a good model to learn vulnerability from.
Step 3: Pay attention to your feelings about the therapist.
A good therapist is collaborative, not directive. They’re a guide through the buried parts of yourself, someone warm and responsive and safe.
They shouldn’t be telling you what you should do or feel.
If you feel like they do, ask them about it.
So what next?
Check out the websites of the therapists I listed, and start emailing people trained in what you liked the most. Not everyone with training will be listed on the official sites, so therapist directories for your area can also be helpful.
Besides the right training, the main thing is that your therapist is honest and up-front about who they are. Attachment traumas come from relationships where trust wasn’t an option, so finding someone safe to trust is the first step.