A Developmental View of Therapeutic Bonding in the Family: Treatment of the Disconnected Family


  • This research is supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, MN44991 (Principal Investigator, J.A. Doane) and MH30929 (Principal Investigators, M. Bowers and D. Cohen), which supports the Yale Mental Health Clinical Research Center. The authors gratefully acknowledge the patients, their families, and the hospital staff that participated in this research. The authors also thank Martha Loukides Walker for her assistance. Send reprint requests to first author at the Yale Psychiatric Institute, P.O. Box 12A, Yale Station, New Haven CT 06520.


Data from an ongoing research study have been used to identify a subgroup of families of severely ill, young adults who present formidable treatment challenges to the family therapist. The disconnected family is characterized by disturbances in attachment between one or both parents and the patient. In many cases, disturbances in attachment and caretaking in the family of origin are reported for the parents in these families. Disconnected families that also have intense emotional styles of relating are particularly difficult to treat. A treatment model that focuses on intergenerational attachment issues is described.