Ask the Expert: Q&A with Dafna Lender, LCSW

Knowing about Integrative Attachment Family Therapy equips therapists with a valuable framework for understanding and addressing family dynamics, attachment issues, and emotional challenges within the family context. By integrating attachment theory and family therapy principles, therapists can provide more comprehensive and effective support to families seeking help.

That's why we sat down with Dafna Lender, LCSW and author of the new clinical guide Integrative Attachment Family Therapy, to answer all your questions about incorporating Integrative Attachment Family Therapy into your practice, including the what it is, what it helps with, and more.

What is Integrative Attachment Family Therapy?

IAFT is a multi-dimensional framework that I have developed. IAFT is informed first and foremost by Theraplay. It is also informed by polyvagal theory and dyadic developmental psychotherapy (DDP), as well as by intersubjectivity and interpersonal neurobiology research. This discourse is body-specific and based in the nonverbal, nonconscious energy exchanged between parent, child, and therapist.

What does IAFT help with?

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.

Who is this clinical guide for?

This book is for the clinician who has been dedicated to improving children’s mental health but has felt discouraged by the obstacles that parents or the mental health system has put in their way. It is for the clinician who enjoys working with children but has sensed that something is missing from their toolbox to create deep, positive change for their young clients.

Bottom line: IAFT treats the underlying cause, which is a basic problem in the parent-child relationship where the child does not feel deeply understood or accepted. My hope is that this book will transform your work with children and their parents, and you’ll feel the magic of connection I’ve come to know with my clients every day.

Advance Praise

“Dafna Lender’s framework, integrative attachment family therapy (IAFT), uses the power of neuroplasticity to provide parents and children with new experiences of safety and connection that shift trauma-informed relationships. It offers a powerful mental health intervention that can help families to heal. If parents and therapists follow Dafna’s guidance, they can make significant progress in reducing attachment trauma in future generations.”
Bessel van der Kolk, MD, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Body Keeps the Score

Integrative Attachment Family Therapy is a child-focused, multidimensional framework on the vanguard of treatments that heal and strengthen attachment issues in the parent-child relationship. With clear, accessible language and illustrative case examples, Dafna Lender shows how activities based in somatic practices can intervene in problem behaviors in children and in parents. The result is a comprehensive book that will benefit all mental health care professionals who strive to alleviate children’s pain and reconstruct family functioning.”
Peter A. Levine, PhD, best-selling author of Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma and Trauma Through a Child's Eyes: Awakening the Ordinary Miracle of Healing

“Dafna Lender presents an integrated therapeutic approach, IAFT, as an accessible, intuitive, optimistic, and compassionate strategy to strengthen the parent-child relationship. The product of this integration is a transformative therapeutic strategy that leverages the importance of both child and parent feeling safe enough to trust each other. Through clinical examples, we observe how this new felt sense of safety enables both the parent and child to become more accurate and respectful witnesses, a process that evolves into the parent-child co-regulation becoming more symmetrical and imbued with the resilience necessary to process potentially disruptive challenges that may confront either the child or the parent.”
Stephen Porges, PhD, author of The Polyvagal Theory and Clinical Applications of the Polyvagal Theory

“This book should be required reading for anyone who works with children. As experienced therapists know, no one clinical model is comprehensive enough to work for everyone. However, Dafna Lender’s integrative attachment family therapy comes darn close. I am hard pressed to think of parents and children who would not be helped by her elegant approach. Through her gift of storytelling, complex ideas come alive in ways that are both poetic and practical. I can’t recommend this illuminating book highly enough!”
Karen Doyle Buckwalter, LCSW, RPT-S, author and podcaster
Integrative Attachment Family Therapy
Integrative 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.

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). 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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