A growing body of research suggests that emotional processing is a central and common change mechanism across various types of therapies (Diener & Hilsenroth, 2009; Foa, Huppert, & Cahill, 2006; Greenberg, 2011). This study examined whether 10 weeks of attachment-based family therapy (ABFT), characterized by the use of in-session young adult-parent dialogues, were more effective than 10 weeks of individual emotion-focused therapy (EFT), characterized by the use of imaginal dialogues, in terms of facilitating productive emotional processing among a sample of 32 young adults presenting with unresolved anger toward a parent. This study also examined whether greater amounts of productive emotional processing predicted more favorable treatment outcomes. In contrast to our expectations, we found significantly more productive emotional processing in individual EFT than in conjoint ABFT. Results also showed that while both treatments led to significant and equivalent decreases in unresolved anger, state anger, attachment anxiety, and psychological symptoms, only ABFT was associated with decreases in attachment avoidance. Although amount of emotional processing did not explain the unique decrease in attachment avoidance in ABFT, greater amounts of productive emotional processing predicted greater decreases in psychological symptoms (but not other outcome measures) across both treatments.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by grant 1079/09 from the Israel Science Foundation. We thank both Dana Stolowicz and Nitzan Cohen for their tremendous assistance in conducting this research study.
© 2016 American Psychological Association.
- Attachment-based family therapy
- Emotion-focused therapy
- Emotional processing