Attachment, A Matter of Substance: The Potential of Attachment Theory in the Treatment of Addictions




Kara Fletcher, Jennifer Nutton, Denise Brend

Clinical Social Work Journal

August 2014




In North America, substance abuse is a public health crisis with annual costs in the billions. Individuals suffer from substance use disorders for multiple years throughout their lifespan. This suggests that neither historical, community-based interventions, nor current, evidence-based behavioral modalities are successful in healing the causes of addiction. A growing corpus of research has established that traumatic early-childhood experiences and insecure attachments are both independent and interrelated risk factors for developing substance abuse disorders. An impressive literature is emerging exploring potential applications of attachment theory-informed intervention. There has yet to be widespread adoption of such techniques. By examining the scholarly literature, this paper synthesizes existing work on attachment theory in the treatment of substance use disorders. A clinical case application is provided to highlight the potential for attachment-informed therapy. Recommendations for using attachment-informed approaches in the treatment of substance use disorders with various groups are offered.









Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee