Understanding & Treating Families
with Complex Developmental Trauma

CE Hours: 3.5
Cost: $63
Instructor: Tara Byers, MS, LPC, NCC

Published 8/15/20

Histories of adversity and trauma are common among families served in intensive, in-home programs.  Although therapists may know the child’s trauma history, the caregivers’ current and past experience with adversity and trauma too often remains in the background, yet is equally as important for informing clinical decision-making.  The caregivers’ histories of trauma have a major impact on family structure, parenting, and response to treatment.  This training introduces participants to current science and conceptualizations of 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 and Porges’ concept of neuroception) are introduced to help therapists gain a basic understanding of how trauma and chronic adversity shapes emotional availability and parent-child relationships.  Bruce Perry’s neurobiology-informed neurosequential model of therapeutics is described as a useful tool for clinical problem solving.

This strength-based training translates knowledge about the impacts of toxic stress on the brain and body into clinical practice, informing therapists about how best to introduce, structure, and pace interventions.  Special attention is given to the important role of therapists in co-regulating stressed, dysregulated caregivers in family therapy sessions.

This course is comprised of edited segments from three live-streamed Zoom versions of a similarly named didactic presented to therapists working in Pennsylvania’s FBMHS programs in April 2020.  Since break-out rooms were used to foster interaction with the material, the webinars in this course contain a rich balance between lecture and conversation.  These conversations facilitate translation of theory to clinical application.


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

  1. Identify the impacts of chronic adversity and traumatic stress on the brain and body
  2. Describe co-regulation and its critical role in emotion regulation in parenting and in family therapy sessions
  3. Explain the role of neuroception and trauma adaptation in presenting symptoms, as well as in the negative interactions of traumatized children and caregivers
  4. Describe how family therapists can effectively apply the intervention rubric: “regulate, relate, and then reason” with reactive family members.

This is a beginning level course, introducing therapists to complex developmental trauma and its implications for treating families.

Course Outline

  • Unit 1: How Chronic Adversity, Toxic Stress, and Trauma Impact the Brain and Body (75 minutes)
    • Webinar: Adverse Childhood Events (ACES and the Complex Developmental Trauma
    • Webinar: Reframing Challenging Behavior as an Adaption to Toxic Stress
    • Handouts: The ACE Pyramid, Slide Handouts
  • Unit 2: Why It’s Important to View Emotional Reactivity in a Relational Context (60 minutes)
    • Webinar: The Relationship Between Attunement and Emotional Regulation
    • Webinar: Brain Adaptations to Alarm and Safety and the Capacity for Connection
    • Handouts: Model of the Brain, Summary of Science of Neglect, Slide Handouts
  • Unit 3: The Critical Role of Co-Regulation in Family Treatment (75 minutes)
    • Webinar: Regulate, Relate, and Reason
    • Webinar: Becoming a Mindful, Emotionally Regulated Therapist
    • Case Presentation: Helping a Caregiver Remain Calm in the Face of Extreme Persistence
    • Handouts: Autonomic Nervous System, Co-Regulation Strategies with Child, Window of Tolerance, Slide Handouts

About the Presenters

Click here for information on Tara Byers, MS, LPC, NCC.

This course uses an online distance-learning self-paced format.  It includes recorded audio, recorded video-based webinars, and selected readings.  There are post-tests to ensure comprehension of the material. Participants can communicate with the instructors via the online moodle interface. Real-time communication with the instructor in our online, self-paced distance learning courses is not possible. However, participants can send an email to the instructor via the online moodle interface within the course and expect to receive a response within 48 hours. All course content, including post-tests, should take approximately 3.5 hours to complete.

Frequently Asked Questions
Visit our Self-Paced, Online Continuing Education Policies & FAQs for additional information regarding the CFBT online learning center, accommodations for disabilities, reporting problems with the course, instructions for viewing webinars, etc.

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