Franklin James Cook

Attachment-Based Therapy Promising for Suicidal Youth

In Prevention, Research on February 24, 2010 at 7:30 pm

According to a news release from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a study has shown that “adolescents with suicidal thoughts and elevated depression had stronger and faster reduction of symptoms when treated with family therapy than with standard treatment.”

In this study, Attachment-based Family Therapy (ABFT), found that patients with severe suicidal thinking were at least four times more likely to have no suicide thinking at the end of the treatment or three months after treatment, than patients treated in the community. Patients in ABFT also showed a more rapid decrease in depression symptoms and were retained in treatment longer than in community care … This is the first treatment study for teen suicidal ideation to show robust and statistically significant improvement over treatment as usual.

“Family conflict, chaos, and strife can contribute to youth suicide, while at the same time family love, trust, and communication can buffer against it,” [says Dr. Guy Diamond of the hospital’s Center for Family Intervention Science, who directed the study]. “This therapy aims to resolve family conflicts and promote family strengths so that the appropriate bond of attachment can protect youth from self harm.”

The research report appears in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Dr. Diamond is delivering a workshop for clinicians in Attachment-based Family Therapy at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on April 9-10.

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  1. I find this study quite interesting as a single mom of three boys. That being said I have also been affected throughout my life by suicide. Most recently, My at the time 16 ear old son died by suicide. However for two years prior, he was in therapy and group therapy session for adolescents w/substance abuse problems. There were of course emotional issues prompting the abuse and as a concerned mom I did my best to try and be part of the solution. What struck me most, and is most relevant to the study, is that after the family group sessions which lasted 3 hours and involved both the parents and the child, Brandon, my son, seemed most able to open up and share with me. Somtimes this was also the case after family therapy sessions between him and me and the therapist. Unfortunately, at a time when I thought we had made considerable progress, the insurance would no longer provide for more therapy. The progress we had made gave me hope and encouragement that he could, or we could get past those troubling times. I think it was encouraging for him also. At times we did seem to move forward, however in the end I couldn’t reach him. His struggle to be independent versus his need for direction and the confusing signals our children often receive, i believe got the best of him. Although, we as parents can’t blame ourselves, I do believe communication is big key.

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