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Self-destructive and Suicidal behaviour as a Traumatic Attachment Disorder

Self-destructive and Suicidal behaviour as a Traumatic Attachment Disorder

Certificate of Completion

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6 CPD hours


Research over the last thirty years has demonstrated a clear-cut relationship between suicidal and self-harming behaviour and childhood abuse.  In the context of abuse and trauma, attachment failure is inevitable, leaving a lasting imprint on all future relationships.  Rather than experiencing others as a haven of safety, traumatized individuals are driven by powerful wishes and fears of relationship.  Their intense emotions and impulsive behavior make them vulnerable to self-destructive attempts to gain relief regardless of the consequences.

In this presentation, we will address the impact of traumatic attachment on the ability of individuals to tolerate emotions (their own and those of others) and how self-destructive tendencies can be best understood as a trauma-related disorder.  Exploring the effects of traumatic attachment opens up new ways of working with clients who struggle to manage their traumatic and emotional responses.

The suicidal, self-harming client is not at war with the therapist.   He or she is caught up into an internal battle:  Do I trust or not trust?  Do I live or do I die?   Do I love or do I hate?  Understanding these clients as fragmented and at war with themselves transforms the therapeutic relationship and the treatment.

This webinar series combines lecture and video to explore the impact of trauma on attachment behavior, the value of re-interpreting suicidal and self-harm as an attachment disorder, and how to help clients make sense of their internal battles and better manage their dysregulated emotional and autonomic states.  New approaches and interventions drawn from Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Internal Family Systems, and mindfulness-based therapies can transform what it means to treat unsafe clients.

Program outline

  • The effects of trauma on attachment formation in children
    • When parents are ‘frightened and frightening’
    • Trauma-related internal conflicts between closeness and distance
    • Disorganized attachment status in adulthood
  • Understanding unsafe behavior as a trauma-related disorder
    • Differentiating personality disorder symptoms from trauma responses
    • Using psychoeducation to make sense of the symptoms
  • A ‘Traumatic Attachment Disorder:  how does it change the treatment?
    • Transforming the focus from behavior change to trauma resolution
    • Understanding splitting as dissociative, not manipulative
    • Transference and countertransference implications
  • Stabilization of unsafe behavior
    • “Waking up” the prefrontal cortex
    • Increasing client ability to be mindful rather than reactive
    • Re-interpreting impulsive behavior as fight/flight responses
    • Helping clients dis-identify from suicidal beliefs and impulses
  • Addressing issues of clinging, separation anxiety and anger
    • Working from a trauma-based parts perspective
    • Facilitating internal attachment relationships
  • The use of mindfulness-based and body-centered interventions
    • Learning to observe rather than react
    • Using somatic interventions to calm the body and emotions
  • A “right brain to right brain” approach to healing attachment wounding
    • Facilitating internal compassion
    • Helping clients ‘repair’ the past rather than remember it
    • Creating internal secure attachment

Learning objectives

  • Participants will be able to describe the effects of trauma-related attachment on affect regulation
  • Participants will be able to identify the effects of disorganized attachment on interpersonal relationships
  • Participants will be able to describe the Structural Dissociation model and its application to the treatment of unsafe behavior
  • Participants will be able to employ right brain-to-right brain techniques to help clients tolerate and benefit from psychotherapy
  • Participants will be able to apply body-centered and mindfulness-based interventions to help clients increase affect tolerance and decrease impulsive behavior

Course Certificate

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About Dr Janina Fisher

Janina Fisher, Ph.D.  is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice; Assistant Educational Director of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute; an EMDRIA Approved Consultant and Credit Provider; former president of the New England Society for the Treatment of Trauma and Dissociation; and a former instructor, Harvard Medical School.

An international writer and lecturer on the treatment of trauma, she is co-author with Pat Ogden of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for Attachment and Trauma and author of Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors: Overcoming Self-Alienation and Transforming the Living Legacy of Trauma.

Dr. Fisher lectures and teaches nationally and internationally on topics related to the integration of the neurobiological research and newer trauma treatment paradigms into traditional therapeutic modalities.

Janina has presented for Delphi in 2010 – 2014 – 2019 – 2021 – 2022 – 2023. Her 2021 – 2022 – 2023 webinars are available On-Demand. She will be presenting again in 2024.

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