Engaging Caregivers in the Service of Their Child's Mental Health: An Examination of Emotion-Focused Family Therapy and the Adult Attachment Interview
Cordeiro, Kristina Marie
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This study examined the effectiveness of brief Emotion-Focused Family Therapy (EFFT), a transdiagnostic intervention that combines psycho-education and experiential exercises to empower parents to support their childs mental health and recovery. We also examined how administering the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) prior to EFFT impacts therapeutic outcomes for caregivers and their children. It has been suggested that administering the AAI can facilitate the therapeutic process; however, previous studies have not examined the benefits of using the AAI as an adjunct to therapy. Using group randomization, 243 caregivers who attended an intensive 2-day EFFT caregiver workshop were assigned to one of two conditions: (1) AAI-enhanced EFFT, involving the completion of an AAI prior to treatment (n = 112); or (2) standard EFFT, with no AAI administration (n = 131). Caregivers completed questionnaires about child psychological symptoms and emotion regulation, as well as parental self-efficacy, parental blocks, and parental mentalization. Data were collected pre-treatment, post-treatment, and again 4-, 8-, and 12-months after treatment. Significant improvements in parent blocks, parental self-efficacy, child symptomatology and child emotion regulation were found for both groups. This confirms that EFFT is an effective intervention for a range of child mental health concerns. Additionally, parents who attended an AAI-enhanced workshop reported greater improvements, primarily during the follow-up period, compared to those who received the standard workshop. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first empirical demonstration of the clinical benefits of administering the AAI when working with parents in the service of youth mental health.