Does Attachment Therapy Work?
A frequent criticism heard by attachment therapists has to do with whether or not there is any research
to show that attachment therapy works. Up until recently, the answer to this question was no. However, in June 1996 an outcome study was conducted by Loy Goodwin, PhD to examine whether or not attachment therapy is effective with severely disturbed children. Dr. Goodwin used the Attachment Disorder Symptom Checklist (ADSCL) developed by the Attachment Center at Evergreen, assigning a number value to the options of never, moderate, or severe (0, 1, or 2 respectively) to assess changes in the type and frequency of behavior problems exhibited by 38 children (ages 5 to 15) receiving intensive attachment therapy at ACE between 1993 and 1995. Parents completed the ADSCL in the week prior to the start of the intensive, and then again anywhere between two months and two years after completing intensive attachment therapy.
Because the reliability and validity of the ADSCL have never been investigated, the results of Dr. Goodwin's study can only be interpreted descriptively. Although Dr. Goodwin used statistical procedures with the data she obtained, finding significant decreases in almost all of the behaviors described on the ADSCL (abnormal eating habits was the only item that showed no significant change), the lack of reliability and validity data on the ADSCL makes it inappropriate to interpret the data in this way.
However, what is important about the results of Dr. Goodwin's study is the finding that the ADSCL shows a 50% reduction in overall symptoms of attachment disorder following two weeks of intensive attachment therapy. In addition, behavioral changes continued to be present as much as two years following the completion of the intensive (13 of the children studied were reevaluated more than 18 months after the intensive was completed).
Dr. Goodwin's study indicates the need for more outcome research about attachment therapy. Better designed and controlled outcome studies are currently under way by ATTACh, by Robin Meyeroff at the Attachment and Bonding
Center of Ohio, here at ACE, and by this author. Results of these studies, although not yet ready to be published, are promising.
The complete text of Dr. Goodwin's dissertation is available from ACE for $5.00, plus .22 tax and $4.50 shipping and handling.
© The Attachment Center at Evergreen
Credits: Liz Randolph, PhD.