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The effectiveness of an Attachment-Based Family Therapy on adolescent depression in Iran

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Ended on 12/14/16
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About This Project

Attachment-Based Family Therapy is a family based treatment for adolescent depression which draws from attachment theory. The effectiveness of this intervention needs to be tested in different cultures. In this study, I chose to investigate the effectiveness of this treatment in a Middle Eastern culture. A group of adolescents who will receive this treatment, will be compared to a group of cognitive behavior therapy, and a control group.

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What is the context of this research?

Attachment is defined as an emotional, long-lasting bond that a child forms with an attachment figure that provides the child a sense of security and protection . Theory and research have indicated to the relationship between deficiencies in attachment relationships and depression in adolescents. Based on this knowledge, a few treatment approaches have been developed for adolescent depression, which have been built on improving the quality of attachment relationships. Attachment-Based Family Therapy has been shown to be a promising treatment for adolescent depression. This treatment focuses on repairing attachment and promoting autonomy, through specific tasks during family sessions.

What is the significance of this project?

Classical treatments for adolescent depression have shown a high relapse rate , and introducing new treatments is essential. Attachment-Based Family Therapy has revealed great outcomes in follow up evaluations, however, this approach has not been tested in Middle Eastern cultures, and professionals are not confident to apply this treatment in that part of the world. Examining the effectiveness of this treatment in Iran, can introduce this treatment to researchers and clinicians in Middle Eastern cultures, and give them a new tool for approaching adolescent depression. Also, this study can improve our knowledge regarding the global influencing therapeutic factors in treatment of adolescent depression.

What are the goals of the project?

The project will be started in fall 2017.

The experimental design includes three groups of depressed adolescents. The first group will receive the Attachment-Based Family Therapy, the second group will receive Cognitive- Behavior Therapy, and the third group will be the control group.

Between group comparison analyses will be performed using SPSS, to compare the effectiveness of the two treatments, and to compare the two treatment groups against the control group.

Three follow up evaluations have been planned to be done in 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months after ending treatment sessions.


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Please note: Expenses are approximate.

The researcher needs training from the pioneer of the treatment in the US, and the amount of money mentioned for traveling covers the flight expenses from Iran to US.

The researcher will need temporary housing in the US during the training period and the amount mentioned can cover the rent.

Three groups of participants are needed to be recruited: two intervention groups and a control group. Each group includes 60 participants. The amount of money mentioned can cover a part of the recruitment expenses ($15 each participant).

Endorsed by

Mahsa was one of my best students at the University of Isfahan. She was delighted by the attachment theory when she was an undergraduate student, and she published two articles under my supervision in this field. Her current project can be beneficial for Iranian families and adolescents. Furthermore, the results can be influential in the future domestic, cross-cultural, and international studies.
I think this project is based on current need in Iran.It can answer one of important questions in the adolescences research and results can use for help them.

Meet the Team

Mahsa Movahed Abtahi
Mahsa Movahed Abtahi

Mahsa Movahed Abtahi

I am a psychology major that my first Master's was in Clinical psychology from the University of Isfahan, Iran, and my second Master's was in Experimental psychology from Kent State university, US. My area of research is attachment and I have authored and co-authored a number of publications in this field.

I am so passionate about this project, because I believe that introducing the Attachment-Based Family Therapy for adolescent depression to clinicians and researchers of my country, could fill a huge gap in treatment of depression in this age group. According to the collectivist culture in Iran, I think that adolescents will benefit from this treatment greater than existing individual therapies. In fact, the significant family involvement in adolescent's life that exists in my culture, would increase the likelihood of positive outcomes of family based treatments.

On the other hand, this therapy is rooted in one of the most striking and well researched theories in the history of psychology, that highlights the strong theoretical bases of the treatment. Attachment theory, has clear indications to etiology of depression that have been interestingly used by the pioneers of this intervention, to develop the current treatment.

Another appealing aspect of this project for me, is the knowledge that will be produced regarding the likely cross-cultural differences in treatment outcomes, in addition to unraveling global influencing factors in this treatment.

Additional Information


Ainsworth, M. D. S. (1989). Attachments beyond infancy. American Psychologist, 44,709-716.

Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and loss. Vol. 2: Separation: Anxiety and anger. New York: Basic Books.

Brumariu, L. E., & Kerns, K. A. (2010). Mother–child attachment patterns and different types of anxiety symptoms: Is there specificity of relations?. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 41(6), 663-674.

Diamond, G. S., Reis, B. F., Diamond, G. M., Siqueland, L., & Isaacs, L. (2002). Attachment-based family therapy for depressed adolescents: A treatment development study. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 41(10), 1190-1196.

Groh, A. M., Roisman, G. I., van IJzendoorn, M. H., Bakermans‐Kranenburg, M. J., & Fearon, R. (2012). The significance of insecure and disorganized attachment for children’s internalizing symptoms: A meta‐analytic study. Child development, 83(2), 591-610.

Moretti, M. M., & Obsuth, I. (2009). Effectiveness of an attachment-focused manualized intervention for parents of teens at risk for aggressive behaviour: The Connect Program. Journal of Adolescence, 32(6), 1347-1357.

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