Understanding the Four Phases of Integrated Attachment Family Therapy (IAFT)

Integrated Attachment Family Therapy (IAFT) is a powerful intervention that heals many common problems for which parents bring their children to therapy, including lying, controlling and manipulative behaviors, defiance, arguing, frequent tantrums, and seemingly pointless disobedience, as well as more internalizing symptoms such as indifference, disconnection, boredom, and depression. This approach addresses such a wide array of behaviors and symptoms because it treats the underlying cause: a basic problem in the parent-child relationship where the child does not feel deeply understood or accepted.

IAFT helps clinicians uncover the reasons for the misalignment between parent and child so they can guide families toward looking at the source of the issues rather than the superficial behaviors. More importantly, this approach provides concrete tools and interventions that actually address and correct the issues so families can transform into happy and well-functioning environments in which children can grow.

At the core of the IAFT approach is the notion that the parent-child relationship is the key to creating the platform for the child’s healthy emotional development. Treatment must start with the parent, as the parent is the main source of the child’s guidance and comfort, the lens through which they interpret the world. Too often, clinicians shy away from working directly with parents because they come with a host of defenses and dysfunctions that are off-putting and complex. However, creating a strong alliance with the parents and then doing the deep therapeutic work throughout the therapy process is the crucial, and often missing, piece of therapeutic work with children.

IAFT strengthens the attachment relationship through play, parent work, and deliberate dialogue. It involves four phases, each focusing on a different person or dyad within the family structure. Here’s an overview:

Four Phases of IAFT

Dyadic sessions are repeated in cycles of four: three dyadic sessions followed by one parent-only session, or a pause for two to five parent-only sessions, until the IAFT therapist and clients feel that some or most of the therapeutic goals have been achieved or that the opportunity for optimal progress has been met.

Download these free worksheets straight from Integrative Attachment Family Therapy to guide you and your clients healing and strengthening the parent-child relationship through play, co-regulation, and meaning making.

Live in Orlando, FL and Online on August 7-8, 2024:
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Conference
It's crucial for us as clinicians and educators to stay informed, equipped, and connected! That’s why we’re inviting you to a groundbreaking 2-day Child and Adolescent Mental Health Conference, where we confront the unprecedented surge in youth mental health challenges head-on.

Live in Orlando, FL, and broadcast virtually, this is your chance to learn the latest strategies, techniques and interventions to grow your therapeutic toolbox. You’ll walk away with evidence-based strategies from today’s most popular modalities like Play Therapy, Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS), Interpersonal Neurobiology, Polyvagal Theory, Attachment-Focused Play, and more - to support your young clients.

You'll learn from:
  • Tina Payne Bryson, co-author with Dan Siegel of two New York Times bestsellers including The Whole-Brain Child, on the power of showing up for kids and rethinking challenging kid behavior beyond the diagnosis
  • Carmen Jimenez-Pride, developer of Diversity in Play Therapy, Inc and certified IFS therapist, on practicing cultural humility and addressing protective systems with IFS therapy in the clinical setting
  • Steve O’Brien, author of The Essential Guide to Treating Child and Adolescent Anxiety, on treatment tips for socially anxious youth and kids in the thick of post-divorce conflict
  • Dafna Lender, author of the popular Integrative Attachment Family Therapy, on a powerful mental health intervention to reduce attachment trauma in families
Integrative Attachment Family Therapy
Integrated Attachment Family Therapy
Integrated Attachment Family Therapy (IAFT), developed by family therapy expert and attachment specialist Dafna Lender, is a powerful intervention approach that addresses a wide array of issues that make their way to a therapist’s office: difficult behaviors on the part of the child, such as frequent arguments and tantrums, disobedience, and indifference, and reactive behaviors on the part of the parents, such as yelling, pleading, threatening, and giving up or giving in.

Instead of viewing the child as the problem, IAFT addresses the crux of the issue: a misalignment in the parent-child relationship. In this treatment guide, Dafna walks readers through the IAFT framework, providing therapeutic insight and concrete strategies to help families achieve meaningful and lasting change. With this clinical guide, you can truly help families transform into happy and well-functioning environments where children can thrive.
Meet the Expert:
Dafna Lender, LCSW, is an international trainer and supervisor for practitioners who work with children and families. She is a certified trainer and supervisor/consultant in both Theraplay and Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) and an EMDR therapist. Dafna’s expertise is drawn from 25 years of working with families with attachment in many settings: at-risk after school programs, therapeutic foster care, in-home crisis stabilization, residential care and private practice. Dafna’s style, whether as a therapist or teacher, is combining the light-hearted with the profound by bringing a playful, intense and passionate presence to every encounter.

Learn more about her educational products, including upcoming live seminars, by clicking here.

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