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Working with Complex Trauma

New science has given us the ability to treat clients with complex trauma histories faster and more effectively than ever before.


​Complex Trauma is a relatively new term that provides an underpinning theory for many conditions, including those that are traditionally referred to as personality disorders.

​Clients with complex trauma histories can be very difficult to engage and to treat, and standard treatments have relatively low success rates, though this has been improving in recent years.

The theory itself isn't all that new, indeed it was first posited by none other than Sigmund Freud over 100 years ago. However, brain imaging technology has allowed us to both validate and deepen our understanding of what is happening for these clients.


​Complex trauma is typically the result of a person experiencing disordered infant attachment, which is often compounded by childhood neglect or abuse. Typically, this is compounded further by experiences of peer violence, and in many cases, early sexual violence. Growing up in unsafe and unsupportive environments forces a child's brain to adapt in ways that cause 'structural dissociation' between the left and right hemispheres of the brain (which Freud called the Ego and the Id).

​In turn this results in a person who is fundamentally at war with themselves, usually under the control of a rigid and dominating left hemisphere which is repressing their right hemisphere functioning in order to survive. The downstream effects of this psychological fracture are unstable and impoverished identity, emotional lability, mood disorders, self-harming behaviours, addictions and interpersonal dysfunction.


​Many therapeutic models have been designed around the presence of a damaged but cohesive identity structure, meaning that they are treating the person as psychologically whole being who can consciously intervene in their own process. Structural dissociation can leave people without access to aspects of their psychology, and with 'no go' zones that they dare not breach.

When therapists use TAU on complex trauma clients they encounter high resistance, avoidance and desistance rates because TAU attempts to dismantle coping behaviours and to expose the client to psychological and emotional states that clients find unbearable until they are sufficiently stable and resourced to resolve them.


Additionally, because complex trauma clients have been injured primarily by their attachment relationships, a therapist’s attempt to establish therapeutic rapport is often experienced as a threat to the client, which then engages intense transference reactions (and can engage strong counter-transference from the therapist).


​This is a two-day interactive workshop that gives your staff the understanding to more successfully engage with Complex Trauma.


It is not a treatment protocol (which is another training) but it prepares therapists to respond to the needs of the clients and avoid the common mistakes that often result in service disengagement.



  • Neuro affective understanding of complex trauma conditions.

  • Understanding the developmental pathways that lead to complex trauma.

  • Understanding the developmental pathways from complex trauma to personality disorders

  • Understanding the 4 threat responses and how they manifest in CT client behaviour and identity

  • A functional understanding of coping behaviours and symptoms, and how to avoid invalidating them for clients

  • Working with the client’s adaptations and coping behaviours (instead of against them)

  • Effective therapeutic engagement with complex trauma and how to minimise transferences and therapeutic ruptures

  • Managing counter-transference with CT clients and therapeutic positioning

  • Moving from a deficit model to a strength-based recovery model of treatment


Duration: 8 hours

Times: Typicaly 9 to 5 but can be varied by arrangement

Audience: All frontline staff, supervisors and managers of frontline staff working with Complex Trauma Clients

Cost: By arrangement with the organisation

Facilitator- Adam Blanch

Adam is a psychologist with 30 years experience treating trauma. He holds degrees in trauma and psychology and specialises in working with complex trauma and personality disorders.

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