Unfulfilled attachment related needs and wants are viewed by many therapists as the heart of couple distress (Johnson & Whiffen, 2003; Johnson, 2004). As a result, efforts to discover and utilize therapeutic processes that encourage couples to identify and appropriately respond to their partner's core attachment needs and wants continue to increase. This study served as a pilot study for a planned, larger-scale investigation examining enactments as a potential best-practice change mechanism to strengthen secure attachment in marital therapy. Twelve couples were randomly assigned to one of two possible experimental groups. Group 1 experienced three therapist-centered therapy sessions, followed by three enactment-centered sessions. Group 2 experienced three enactment-centered sessions followed by three therapist-centered sessions. Before each experimental session, both spouses independently completed a measure assessing their attachment security to their spouse over the past week. After each experimental session, both spouses independently completed a measure assessing how their attachment security to their spouse changed during the session. Each participant's scores were averaged and analyzed descriptively to explore possible trends and trajectories regarding the relationship between an enactment-focused clinical process and secure attachment and how it compared to a therapist-centered clinical process. The results of this pilot study provide preliminary support of enactments as an effective treatment protocol for therapists to help couples strengthen their secure attachment. Findings revealed trends suggesting that enactment-focused therapy sessions tended to increase overall couple secure attachment, perhaps superior to that of a solely therapist-centered approach.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage and Family Therapy



Date Submitted


Document Type





enactments, couple therapy, adult attachment