Treating Families with Histories of Complex Developmental Trauma

CE Hours: 4.0
Instructor: C. Wayne Jones, PhD

June 2020, North Carolina

Trauma histories are common among the families served in intensive, in-home programs.  The child’s trauma history may be obvious to therapists, but the caregivers’ trauma history too often remains in the background with respect to clinical decision-making.  Yet these histories can have a major impact on family structure, parenting, and response to treatment. This workshop introduces participants to current knowledge about complex developmental trauma, describing what it is and how it impacts brain development and brain functioning in children and caregivers.  Clinician friendly concepts from neuroscience ( e.g. Siegal’s “hand model” of the brain, Porges’ concept of neuroception, and “default mode networks”) are introduced to help therapists gain a basic understanding of how trauma and chronic adversity shapes emotional availability and parent-child relationships.  This strength-based workshop demonstrates how to translate knowledge of the brain and trauma into clinical decisions about the way systemic interventions are introduced, structured, and paced. Special attention is given to how the therapist’s personal stance with caregivers who become easily physiologically dysregulated can determine whether the therapeutic alliance is strengthened or weakened, and whether the caregivers are likely to follow-through with treatment recommendations.  A combination of didactic presentation of information, videotapes of therapy sessions, and role play are used to teach concepts. 


As a result of attending this training, participants will be able to:    

  1. Describe four components of a complex developmental trauma symptom presentation  
  2. Identify the most effective methods for structuring family sessions when caregivers have a history of complex trauma 
  3. Explain how a relational focus in sessions supports recovery from complex trauma.
  4. Describe the role of co-regulation as a clinical intervention with caregivers and children.
  5. Identify four effective “therapist stances” for supporting physiologically dysregulated family members in session
  6. Identify personal “window of tolerance” with families and how this can affect effectiveness in treatment.

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