Attachment-Based Family Therapy (ABFT) is a brief and structured form of family-based therapy that was developed specifically for adolescents experiencing depression and suicidal ideation.

What is ABFT?

This type of therapy is based on attachment theory, adolescent developmental research, structural family therapy, and multidimensional family therapy approaches. The primary theme of this type of therapy is enhancing bonds between adolescents and caregivers to establish and bolster safety, trust, and security in the relationship. Research has shown that adolescents with a firm foundation of safety and trust in their caregivers develop more protective factors that decrease depressive symptoms.


This type of family-based therapy is structured. ABFT is typically completed in 12-16 weeks, which is often a shorter period of time compared to other family therapy models. Therapists using the ABFT model take families through five important treatment tasks. Families meet together throughout ABFT, and adolescents and caregivers will also meet individually with the therapist. Parents and caregivers learn skills in emotional coaching and validating their adolescents’ emotions, and teens work on developing interpersonal skills important in emotional regulation and communicating their experiences, feelings, and needs to their caregivers. In this form of treatment, enhancing family relationships is seen as the primary solution and important first step in being able to work towards decreasing the teen’s depressive symptoms and potential problematic behaviors.


ABFT is backed by a wealth of research which demonstrates its effectiveness. ABFT has been shown to decrease depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation in teens as well as promote autonomy and decrease conflict between adolescents and caregivers. In an important study, over 80% of adolescents that participated in ABFT no longer met diagnostic criteria for Major Depressive Disorder following completing ABFT treatment. Follow up in numerous studies have shown evidence for these results being long lasting.

Queen City Counseling & Consulting is proud to have four clinicians trained in providing Attachment-Based Family Therapy. We are passionate about mental health treatment for teens and young adults that involves the family system. If you are interested in learning more about this model, please contact us.

Reference: Shpigel, M. S., Diamond, G. M., & Diamond, G. S. (2012). Changes in parenting behaviors, attachment, depressive symptoms, and suicidal ideation in attachment‐based family therapy for depressive and suicidal adolescents. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 38, 271-283. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.2012.00295