Bethany Baker, Ph.D., is a 2021 graduate of the PhD Program in Marriage and Family Therapy at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Janet Robertson, PhD, Committee Chair
  • Kevin Lyness, PhD, Committee Member
  • Bryson Greaves, PhD, Committee Member


adoption, attachment, couples, adult adoptee, romantic relationships, psychoeducation, Hold Me Tight, emotionally focused therapy

Document Type


Publication Date



Adult adoptees may be blocked from feeling securely attached to their romantic partners and they may not even know it or what to do about it. The literature shows adult adoptees being overrepresented in insecure attachment styles, and not enough attention has been paid to the effect this has had on adoptees in their romantic relationships. In fact, no known study, to date, has provided an attachment-based psychoeducational approach for this marginalized population. The purpose of this introductory qualitative study was to explore the experiences and meaning-making of attachment, specifically related to adoption, for the adult adoptee and their romantic partner once they had attended a Hold Me Tight program (based on the principles of emotionally focused therapy). Semistructured dyadic interviews of three couples who identified as one partner being adopted were analyzed by using experiential thematic analysis. Results of this study demonstrated the need for the adult adoptee to vulnerably share their experiences of adoption-related attachment injuries with their partner. This sharing created new understandings, awareness, and a deeper connection for the couples. Themes included sharing adoption-related attachment burden with their partner, finding the reason for adoption-related attachment injuries, attachment in the adoptive parent relationship and transitions from birthmother to adoptive parents, adoption-related attachment injury of social stigma, and the adoptee’s negative view-of-self. These themes point to the need to promote attachment security for these unique couples through attachment-related education programs such as the one used in the study. One important finding was that avoidantly attached adult adoptees could lean into more securely attached behavior with their romantic partners after learning about their attachment through the HMT. The results of this study highlight a need for researchers, mental health professionals, families, and society to understand there may be a significant link between these couples and adoption-related attachment injury and support them in research, therapy, and understanding.


Bethany Baker

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0001-6591-2666