The Three Pillars of Attachment Repair

The Foundation of Comprehensive Attachment Repair: The Three Pillars Method

The Three Pillars Model was introduced to the world in 2016 by Harvard psychologists David S. Elliott, the late Daniel P. Brown, and 7 co-authors in the textbook Attachment Disturbances in Adults: Treatment for Comprehensive Repair (752 pages).

As described in the text, attachment security requires active engagement of both the Attachment System and the Exploratory System. For those of us with insecure attachment styles, whether anxious-preoccupied, disorganized (fearful), or dismissing (avoidant), one or both of these systems may be either limited or excessively activated.

Attachment repair involves the delicate activation or deactivation of these systems through the power of imagination and precisely tailored relational support until the envisioned experiences solidify into an internalized working model of security.

Pillar 1 employs a conversational guided meditation, a back-and-forth collaboration between the participant and therapist. The participant deeply relaxes, imagining themselves as a young child having vivid, nurturing experiences with ideal parent figures that embody the ten ingredients of attachment security. The therapist amplifies and guides each experience.

Pillar 2 develops the participant’s Metacognition or Mentalizing capacity (similar to Vipassana Meditation), and Pillar 3 provides a practical understanding of the nature of collaborative, secure relationships.

Early research on The 3 Pillars Model showed a shift into attachment security after participants received 35-50 hours of IPF Meditation with a provider who shared session recordings for between-visit listening. Attachment Security was measured using the AAI (Adult Attachment Inventory). The treatment effect size was significant, at 6.23 (Cohen).

The Three Pillars Model

Comprehensive education on the model that heals anxious-proccupied, dismissing (avoidant), and disorganized (fearful) attachment is available within the 2016 textbook by Daniel P. Brown and David S. Elliott, Attachment Disturbances in Adults: Treatment for Comprehensive Repair (752 pages)


IPFP Meditation

Imagine feeling yourself as a young child and engaging with ideal parent figures (IPFs) who are securely attached.



Enhance Metacognition and Mentalizing. (Similar to Mindfulness Meditation.) 



Focus on collaborative verbal and non-verbal communication to promote secure attachment.

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Ideal Parent Figure Protocol (IPFP) Meditation Outcomes

More Effective

Therapeutic models are considered effective when they have a treatment effect size of 0.8. The treatment effect size of IPF guided-meditation is 6.23 (Cohen).

Avoids Trauma Processing

The 3 Pillars Model sometimes resolves trauma without processing it — a gift because “trauma processing” can re-traumatize those with disorganized attachment.

Resolves Insecurity

Along with supporting a move into secure attachment (as measured by the AAI), the model can be used prior to trauma processing to resolve attachment insecurity.