Therapy that Addresses Attachment Injury

Therapy that Addresses Attachment Injury


EFT & Attachment Injury Repair

When we experience healthy attachment with important others, we are full of affection and fondness. It is something that leaves us fulfilled and joyous in our relationships. Unfortunately, circumstances can disrupt our ability to feel positive attachment. Those disruptions in our connection, whether minor or major, can lead to feelings of abandonment and betrayal, and are the cause of what we call attachment injuries.

What is Attachment Injury?

Attachment injury is a term used to describe a feeling of betrayal or abandonment suffered by an individual, usually during a time of critical need in their life. As children, our attachment is to our parents; we look to them to meet our need for our nurturing, support, safety and connection. When we become adults and enter romantic relationships, our attachment pattern shifts to our partner.

While attachment injury can refer to things that happen with anyone who is important to us, the most impactful attachment injuries are those that occur in our intimate relationships. Sadly, while these relationships can provide some of the strongest bonds and give us our most fulfilling experiences, they also can be the most damaging because of the importance of our intimate partner in our lives.

An attachment injury can be caused by something such as infidelity, temporary abandonment, or another form of emotional or physical betrayal. Alternatively, it can be something akin to not being supported after a miscarriage, being ignored, or not having equal responsibilities around the house. Attachment injuries can happen when there is an unwillingness to discuss an emotional incident, a topic continues to resurface and dialogue about it is still ignored, or when a serious need is neglected. Such behaviors can eclipse any possibility of a positive and happy partnership.

Attachment in Relationships

Secure attachment is the best predictor of relationship success. There are two primary types of attachment patterns: secure or insecure. Your attachment style impacts how you talk to your partner, as well as contributes to how you see the relationship. If you are in a securely attached union, you are more likely to describe it as positive and rewarding. This looks like high levels of trust, commitment, and satisfaction in your relationship. Communication, while not always perfect, is clear, accessible, and empathic.

On the other hand, if you are insecurely attached in your relationship, you may feel emotionally distressed and have strained, non-existent, or even combative communication. You or your partner may withhold feelings, blame one another, or simply find yourself stuck in a negative cycle. To make matters more tricky, because of the insecure attachment, this type of relationship is more likely to find the negative cycles of blame and withdrawal perpetuated over and over again. This can feel totally hopeless!

How EFT Can Help with Attachment Injuries

Fortunately, whether you are in a mostly securely attached relationship, or are currently struggling to feel secure with your partner, Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) can help. EFT invites couples to focus on changing their attachment behaviors in order to improve their relationship and promote healthy communication. EFT can help break a couple free from the negative pattern they’ve found themselves in and instead support them to achieve stable recovery from attachment injury, better communication, and emotional intimacy.

Studies have shown that there are significant stability gains in the relationships of couples who decide to go through EFT together. EFT has shown to be highly effective in treating attachment injuries of all kinds, so there is definitely hope for couples who’ve experienced attachment injury in their relationship. Further, EFT has been found to help maintain resolution from attachment injuries even years after the conclusion of therapy.

Of course, it is always good for couples to come in with an attitude of willingness and receptivity. It can be hard to learn to forgive and trust again. If both people in the relationship are committed to each other and want to resolve these painful injuries, an emotionally focused therapist can help guide them through the repair process. While we can never take back something that happened in the past, there is a tremendous amount of potential to repair the damage caused by an attachment injury incident. You can do this together! Feelings of betrayal and abandonment may yet yield to a sense of increased intimacy, and contentment.

If you are interested in learning more about Emotionally Focused Therapy, contact Laurie McNeil: or 301-788-1612
Halchuk, R. E., Makinen, J. A., & Johnson, S. M. (2010). Resolving Attachment Injuries in Couples Using Emotionally Focused Therapy: A Three-Year Follow-Up. Journal Of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 9(1), 31-47. doi:10.1080/15332690903473069