Attachment-Based Family Therapy for Suicidal Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adolescents: A Treatment Development Study and Open Trial With Preliminary Findings

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Abstract

The objective of this paper is to adapt attachment-based family therapy (ABFT) for use with suicidal lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adolescents and to obtain preliminary data on the feasibility and efficacy of the treatment with this population. In Phase I, a treatment development team modified ABFT to meet the unique needs of LGB suicidal youth. In Phase II, 10 suicidal LGB youth were offered 12 weeks of LGB sensitive ABFT. Adolescents' report of suicidal ideation, depressive symptoms, and maternal attachment–related anxiety and avoidance were gathered at pretreatment, 6 weeks, and 12 weeks (posttreatment). In Phase I, the treatment was adapted to: (a) include more individual time working with parents in order to process their disappointments, pain, anger, and fears related to their adolescent's minority sexual orientation; (b) address the meaning, implications, and process of acceptance; and (c) heighten parents' awareness of subtle yet potent invalidating responses to their adolescents' sexual orientation. Results of Phase II suggest this population can be recruited and successfully treated with a family based therapy, evidenced by high levels of treatment retention and significant decreases in suicidal ideation, depressive symptoms, and maternal attachment–related anxiety and avoidance. This is the first family-based treatment adapted and tested specifically for suicidal LGB adolescents. Though promising, the results are preliminary and more research on larger samples is warranted.

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