Attachment Theory & Repair — October 2022 8-week course
This course is backed up by research. In a study on the effect of our 8-week Attachment Theory & Repair course, Insecure Attachment traits were reduced significantly. Participants’ perceived security and felt safeness improved by 33% and 61% respectively, and the experiences fewer feelings of anxiety and depression.
With the Social Safeness and Pleasure Scale (SSPS), a self-administered questionnaire used to assess feelings of social safeness and pleasure. It consists in 18 questions that ask about the frequency of experiencing different emotional states in social situations over the past two weeks. Respondents rate each item on a scale from 1 (never) to 5 (always). The scores for each item are summed to obtain a total score ranging from 18 to 90. Higher scores indicate greater feelings of social safeness and pleasure, while lower scores indicate less positive feelings in social situations.
With a score of 33 indicating that a person feels generally accepted, understood, and supported in their life “some of the time”, the incoming average of 28.18 indicates that most participants came into the program feeling somewhat lacking in this area. In healthy well-adapted individuals, we would want to see scores at or around 44 or above indicating that they perceive their lives to be safe and supportive in most respects at least most of the time. This is not surprising for a program aimed at improving attachment and security.
The nearly 9-point increase (+33,25%) in general perceived security is an extraordinarily large and meaningful effect. It indicates that on average participants moved from perceiving general warmth and security in their lives and relationships less than “some of the time” to something akin to “most” or “nearly most” of the time. Given that this instrument likely measures a healthy adaptive attachment response, this is very heartening and indicates that, at least for those who filled out the pre/post measures, participants were feeling safer and more supported at the end of the program than they were at the beginning.
With the Types of Positive Affect Scale (TPAS), a self-administered questionnaire used to assess three different types of positive emotions including social safeness, which is highly related to the attachment construct felt security. It consists of 12 items, with four items for each type of positive affect with safeness items including: ‘safe’, ‘secure’, ‘warm’, and ‘content’. Respondents rate each item on a scale from 1 (very slightly or not at all) to 5 (extremely). The total scores for each subscale range from 4 to 20. Higher scores indicate a greater tendency to experience the corresponding type of positive affect.
With a score of 8 indicating that a participant’s experience was “somewhat’ characterized by felt warmth and safety, the incoming average of 6.18 was a little low and indicates participants on average experienced only a little warmth and safety in their lives. This is not surprising for a program aimed at improving attachment and security.
The nearly 4-point increase (+61%) in the experience of warm felt safeness was one of the largest effects we found. Scores indicated that participants’ experience of warmth and security changed from “a little” characteristic of their experience to between “somewhat” and “a lot”. This is a very large gain in warm security, one of the best psychological predictors of both long-term mental health, wellbeing, and health relationships.
Attachment – avoidant and preoccupied:
With the Experiences in Close Relationships Scale – Short Form (ECR-S), a self-administered questionnaire used to assess adult attachment styles in close relationships. It consists of 12 items, with six items for each of two attachment dimensions: attachment anxiety/preoccupation and attachment avoidance. Respondents rate each item on a scale from 1 (disagree strongly) to 7 (agree strongly). The scores for the respective set of items are summed. The total scores for each dimension range from 6 to 42. Higher scores on the attachment anxiety dimension indicate greater fear of rejection and abandonment, while higher scores on the attachment avoidance dimension indicate greater discomfort with closeness and intimacy.
For both avoidance and preoccupation, a score of 16 or higher indicated a higher likelihood of having an insecure attachment style. Users on average were quite likely to be characterized by both types of maladaptive attachment, though preoccupation (28,18) was even more prevalent than avoidance (23,86). This is unsurprising given that those experiencing avoidance would be theoretically less likely to seek out support programs like this one.
Participants experienced medium-sized improvements in avoidant (-14,29%) and preoccupied (-15,47%) attachment. These are nice effect sizes and somewhat unexpected for psychological constructs that are NOT expected to move much over time. This indicates that participants’ attachment styles shifted over the course of the program.
Generalized Anxiety and Depression:
With the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), a self-administered questionnaire used to screen for and monitor the severity of depression. It consists of 9 items that correspond to the 9 diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder in the DSM-5. Each item asks about the frequency of symptoms over the past two weeks, and respondents are asked to rate their symptoms on a scale from 0 (not at all) to 3 (nearly every day).
For both anxiety and depression, a score of 3 or higher indicates a high likelihood that a disorder would be diagnosed if the participant was given a full clinical interview. While both mean scores were below this threshold and therefore in the “normal range”, this represents the high end of this range and indicates that many participants were likely experiencing at least mild to moderate levels of anxiety and/or depression. In fact, 48% of participants were outside the normal range for anxiety and 39% for depression.
While a single-point decrease in anxiety and depression may not seem like much, it was a substantial effect given that incoming scores were not terribly high. Even in a sample that had only mild to moderate levels of anxiety and depression, there was still a clear improvement in mood. This is understandable given the change in felt safeness and perceived security which are major indicators of mental health and well-being.
Limitations and conflicts of interest:
This was a pilot study. There was no control group. 141 participants took the initial assessment and of those only 22 took the post-course assessment. This may have affected the data. Attachmentrepair.com both gave the course and ran the pilot study.
In this study on the effect of our 8-week Attachment Theory & Repair course, Insecure Attachment traits were reduced significantly. Participants’ perceived security and felt safeness improved by 33% and 61% respectively, and their feelings of anxiety and depression lessened, as well.
We thank Ben Armstrong for putting the results of the study together.