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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Rivera

Can I Change An Insecure Attachment Style?



For those grappling with insecure attachment issues, you might well wonder if it is possible for adults to change their attachment style and cultivate a more securely attached style, particularly in relationships.


This article offers some revelations and insights into this possibility.







It is well documented that human connection and our attachment style play a pivotal role in shaping how we develop intimacy and form relationships.


“It is from intimate attachments a person draws their strength and enjoyment to others, and these are matters about which current science and traditional wisdom are at one.”– John Bowlby | Attachment Theory


For individuals grappling with insecure attachment traits, the prospect of cultivating a secure attachment may seem daunting or impossible.


It is especially difficult for those who have experienced abuse, trauma, or adversity during childhood, which can be a catalyst for insecure attachment styles, such as avoidant, anxious or disorganised.


The good news is that it is possible for a person to overcome an anxious attachment style.


Although this was not always the case, recent research, including a study conducted by Hudson, Chopik & Briley (2020), suggests that it is possible to gradually alter one's attachment style. An earlier study by Cozzarelli et al. (2003) provided compelling evidence that insecure attachment styles are not set in stone but rather can undergo meaningful change over time. The study revealed that nearly half of the participants experienced shifts in their attachment styles across a two-year period. Changes in attachment style were mirrored by corresponding shifts in overall mental health, highlighting the interconnectedness of attachment patterns and psychological well-being.


These findings not only suggest that attachment styles possess a degree of flexibility but also emphasise the significance of personal growth, interpersonal experiences, and dispositional factors in fostering secure attachments. Over time, individuals can work towards diminishing anxious or avoidant tendencies and strive towards embracing a more secure attachment style.


What steps can be taken to move towards a more secure Attachment Style?


In an article reviewed by Reynolds, 2023, the following five steps were identified as key to achieving behavioural and emotional change of insecure attachment styles.


  • Recognition

  • Learning from Others

  • Strengthening Self Esteem

  • Nervous System Care/Self Regulation

  • Counselling & Psychotherapy



Counselling and Psychotherapy


When an insecure attachment style affects relationships, the support of a trained therapist can be invaluable. There are a range of different therapies that can help with relational issues, including those that stem from an insecure attachment style.


Emotion Focussed Therapy (EFT) and Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT)


Both approaches are excellent for helping clients with the emotional aspects of the problem, including self-esteem and emotional regulation. Emotion-focused psychotherapy coupled with inner child work can really enable deeper experiential healing to reshape attachment issues and create new experiences that are grounded in secure responses, intimacy, and connection.


Cognitive and Behavioural Therapy Approaches


Behavioural Therapy can be a very helpful addition to other therapy approaches as it can be a key aspect of helping clients form new skills and resources for modelling new secure behaviour patterns. Clients can also learn how to practice secure behavioural adaptions and emotional regulation skills, leading to being able to cultivate relationships that nurture their emotional well-being.


Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)


A popular evidence-based therapeutic treatment for trauma that uses bilateral eye stimulation to process residual trauma.


What is Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy?


An integrative therapist who is trained in various modalities can tailor sessions to meet each client's unique requirements.



Embracing the Journey of Self-Discovery


Ultimately, the journey toward change is a deeply personal one, guided by introspection, courage, and a commitment to growth. Therapy can help individuals change their attachment style and move towards self-discovery and resilience; while the journey toward secure attachment may not be a completely smooth ride, it does offer a profound opportunity for growth and deep transformational change.




References:


Cozzarelli, C., Karafa, J.A., Collins, N.L. and Tagler, M.J., 2003. Stability and change in adult attachment styles: associations with personal vulnerabilities, life events. and global construals of self and others. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 22(3), pp.315-346.


Hudson, N. W., Chopik, W. J., & Briley, D. A. (2020). Volitional Change in Adult Attachment: Can People Who Want to Become Less Anxious and Avoidant Move Closer towards Realizing those Goals? European Journal of Personality, 34(1), 93-114. https://doi.org/10.1002/per.2226

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