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The development of the human brain, personality and body are determined, as we all know, not only by what happens in each individual’s life, but also by the way the brain and the body react to it.
The resilience of the human mind and nervous system depend on innate qualities, but most importantly, on early attachment experiences that the infant makes in the developmental process.
For the very first time in London, 11 of today’s most eminent experts and pio- neers in the field of neuroscience, attachment and trauma will attend the fourth edition of the Attachment and Trauma Congress, to share their incredibly vast knowledge on this subject. More specifically, thanks to the valuable insights and cutting-edge approaches that each one of them will provide through lecture and panel discussion, participants will learn more about the interaction between experiences in life such as early trauma and attachment bonds and neurobio- logical processes. Furthermore, our speakers will give an in-depth overview of the different obstacles that prevent the body and mind from recovering from traumatic experiences and they will explore the most effective treatments and relational approaches in the field of psychotherapy to help patients who feel “imprisoned” by their psychological traumas and to support them in increasing their resilience and removing obstacles in the natural evolutionary pathway of their lives.
Every year, more than 1000 participants from over 40 different countries have attended the past 3 editions of the Congress “Attachment and Trauma”, which many of them have defined “an historic event in the field of trauma-related psychotherapy”. The fourth edition of the Congress, “Attachment and Trauma - the Resilience of Mind and Body”, will take place at the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, uniquely situated in the heart of London.
What will this event be about?
Read the abstract of the event
Trauma, natural selection and the Devil’s Bargain
Decades ago, Jonas Salk highlighted the double-edged sword of evolution by re- minding us that while natural selection is busy solving the problems of the present, it is also creating the problems of the future. As therapists, we see this manifest in many evolutionary “choices” that have been made to keep our bodies safe, which now make our brains and minds so vulnerable to psychological distress. This de- vil’s bargain is nowhere more apparent than the impact of trauma on the human species. Trauma, especially early in life, impacts the matrix of our neurobiological and psychosocial development in ways that can result in the debilitating symptoms for which victims our help. In this presentation, Dr. Cozolino will explore the deep hi- story of our vulnerability to trauma and leverage evolutionary theory to understand the how’s and why’s of successful treatment.
Connectedenes as a biological imperative understanding the consequences of trauma, abuse and chronic stress through the lens of the Polivagal Theory
Polyvagal Theory expands our understanding of normal and atypical behavior, mental health, and psychiatric disorders. Polyvagal Theory, by incorporating a developmental perspective, explains how maturation of the autonomic nervous system forms the neural “platform” upon which social behavior and the deve- lopment of trusting relationships are based. The theory explains how reactions to danger and life threat and experiences of abuse and trauma may retune our nervous system to respond to friends, caregivers, and teachers as if they were predators. The theory may help practitioners distinguish the contextual features that trigger defense from those that are calming and support spontaneous social engagement.
Neuroplasticity in Action: Rewiring the Internal Working Models
Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP), one of the fastest growing approaches to working with attachment trauma, has developed a neu- robiologically based psychotherapeutic process with rich, creative, systematic interventions to transform attachment trauma and rewire internal working mo- dels of attachment. It features a 3 factor — relatedness, emotion & transforma- tion– theory of change. Featuring an explicitly empathic, affirming, emotionally engaged therapeutic stance, AEDP is fearless in working with the experience of the patient-therapist attachment, moment-to-moment tracking and processing it rigorously. This presentation will showcase AEDP with its clinical focus on di- rectly translating attachment research into the clinical practice of fostering secure attachment through explicit and experiential work with: 1. here-and-now expe- riences within the therapeutic dyad; 2. receptive affective experiences, of feeling felt, feeling seen, and feeling loved; 3. dyadic affect regulation and processing of unbearable emotions; and 4. dyadic affect regulation and processing of transfor- mational experience. Processing both traumatic and restorative emotional expe- riences to completion, the AEDP process culminates in vitality, energy, and the non-finite positive emotion-fueled spirals of resilience, well-being and creativity that are so highly correlated with health. Making extensive use of videotaped ma- terial from actual psychotherapy sessions to illustrate both affective phenomena and clinical techniques, this presentation will demonstrate specific relational, ex- periential, somato-sensory and transformational strategies for putting neuropla- sticity into moment-to-moment clinical action.
The impact of prolonged maltreatment and neglect on the physiological mechanisms supporting humans’ social nature: a study of Sierra Leonean street-boys
The development of the human brain is strictly dependent on the type and qua- lity of social relations taking place during an extended period of time. The pre- sent study shows how, following specific impact-trajectories, the exposure to prolonged maltreatment and neglect produces specific alterations in the basic physiological mechanisms supporting human social nature. In two groups of Sierra Leonean street-children and street-boys facial mimicry, and the vagal au- tonomic regulation to others’ facial expressions of negative emotions appeared to be significantly altered. Furthermore, results demonstrated a different level of impairment between street-children and street-boys exposed to maltreatment and neglect for different time. The impact-trajectory of maltreatment and neglect time exposure – a discriminative variable of protracted traumatic events in general – on facial mimicry and vagal regulation was further investigated in a longitudinal study involving a large group of street-boys from the age of 9 to 18 years. Results demonstrated that longer time exposure enhanced incoherent facial mimicry and ineffective vagal regulation in response to negative facial expressions. Importan- tly, a compensatory vagal recruitment was evidenced during the first years of maltreatment. The longitudinal study sheds new light on the natural patterns of resilience and chronicity, hence providing clues for coherent rehabilitative inter- ventions.
Presence of mind, health in body and relationships
In this presentation Dr. Siegel will explore the nature of presence, the state of re- ceptive awareness that has been empirically shown to improve both relational and physiological well-being. Presence can be cultivated through a range of practices, and can be seen to support a clinician’s resilience in the face of working with those who have experienced trauma. For the person who has had trauma in their lives, the open state of presence may be challenged by the repeated intrusion of memory and emotion related to the traumatic events of the past. Working with presence cultivates well-being and resilience in both clinician and client, a win-win situation.
Ego State Interventions for Self-Destructive clients
This practical talk contains a brief introduction to ego state therapy for dissociative and non-dissociative clients, a simple method for assessing and treating suicidal and self-destructive capacities, and a way to bring the resources and care-giving capacities of the “oldest-wisest selves” or ANPs to the client’s entire system.
THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE: BRAIN, MIND, AND BODY IN THE HEALING OF TRAUMA
The majority of people who seek psychiatric care have histories of trauma, chaos, or neglect. PTSD is only one possible adaptation to trauma; it rarely exists by itself, and it does not take account of the differential effects of trauma at different stages of mental and brain development. In the past two decades there has been not only an explosion of knowledge about how experience shapes the central nervous system and the formation of the self, but also about what constitutes effective intervention. Advances in the neurosciences, attachment research and in information processing show how brain function is shaped by experience and that life itself can continually transform perception and biology. Overwhelming experiences alter the capacity for self-regulation, attention and me- mory processing due to changes in subcortical, i.e., “unconscious”, levels of the brain. The memory imprints of the trauma(s) are held as bodily states and physical action patterns. This causes the entire human organism to automatically react to current experiences as a recurrence of the past. While language, insight and under- standing are useful to deal with confusion and secrecy, it rarely is enough to deal with the unspeakable, intolerable and unacceptable nature of traumatic experience. Effective treatment of post-traumatic problems needs to include addressing the im- print of trauma on the physical experience of the self as being helpless and in danger. Recovery needs to incorporate dealing with defensive efforts that helped ensure survival, and incorporate physical experiences that contradict feelings and sensations associated with helplessness and disconnection.
BRAIN, BODY, AND FEELING: THE ESSENTIAL NEUROSCIENCE
It is not possible to deal effectively with the issues of attachment and trauma without having a clear perspective on the relations between body and brain and on how they play in the construction of affect, including both feelings and emotions. Both recent findings and fundamental theory will be reviewed in this lecture.
EPIGENETICS AND RESILIENCE
EPIGENETICS AND RESILIENCE
Epigenetic factors play a major role in biological processes and help determine how life trajectories are altered through experience. Environmental exposures prior to and during gestation and later in the postnatal period represent the ear- liest non-genetically mediated source of variation. Although in recent years there has been abundant focus on epigenetic changes associated with environmental changes in utero, emerging evidence suggests that epigenetic changes in sperm can affect transgenerational inheritance of the effects of trauma in animals. Thus both male and females have the ability to uniquely contribute to programming the capacity for responding to stress in offspring. The power of the environment to influence our genes through epigenetic mechanisms early in development has been generally considered to increase vulnerability. However, it is also impor- tant to consider the positive aspects of our ability to make enduring transforma- tions on the basis of experience. This presentation will focus on early develop- mental opportunities for epigenetic modifications, but will also demonstrate that such changes may be present throughout life. Epigenetic data will be presented demonstrating changes in association with trauma exposure, PTSD, and resil- ience. The clinical implications of these changes will be discussed.
SOCIAL SOURCES OF RESILIENCE
Resilience following adverse life events is commonly considered an attribute of individual psychology. This talk will suggest that while individual factors such as temperament and intelligence contribute to resilient development, positive out- comes depend as much or more upon relational and social factors. Data from prospective longitudinal studies of children in high-risk homes have consistently identified the central importance of secure attachment to at least one stable and reliable caregiver. Moreover, home-visiting services to high-risk mothers and in- fants have been shown to reduce significantly the percentage of children who manifest insecure or disorganized attachment as toddlers and to prevent the development of later social and educational difficulties. For older children and young adults, social factors affecting resiliency include the availability of interested teachers, clergy members, or youth leaders, and the opportunity to participate in organized group activities where their talents are appreciated. For adult trauma survivors, the most resilient outcomes are seen in those who find active coping strategies in affiliation with others. Finally, this talk will address the perspective of a particular group of trauma survivors—the parents of homicide victims—who resist the idea of resiliency altogether.
THE ROLE OF THE BODY IN FOSTERING RESILIENCE
Our sense of self is influenced not only by the words we use to describe oursel- ves, but also by a non-verbal story, told to others as well as ourselves through automatic physical habits of which we are typically unaware. Movement vo- cabulary – the variety of gesture, posture, and movement available for ready execution – develops over time in a context of trauma and attachment. Certain action sequences, such as reaching, pushing, or maintaining an aligned posture, are abandoned or distorted when they consistently fail to produce the desired outcome. These physical correlates of personality, pathology and competency can be directly and objectively observed and changed to support self-esteem, healthy relationships, and emotional intelligence. In a Sensorimotor Psychothe- rapy approach, clients’ movement vocabulary is expanded so that new actions appropriate to current contexts instead of past ones become available to promo- te resilience and instill hope for the future.
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