Offered by the Department of Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School.

Complex Psychological Trauma and Recovery

Daniel Brown, PhD, ABPH

August 2 – 6, 2021 • Monday – Friday
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The essential features of psychological trauma are disempowerment and disconnection from others; therefore, it follows that the recovery process is based on empowerment of the survivor and restoration of adult, secure, intimate relationships. This seminar will review the longterm sequelae of the combination of neglect and early childhood attachment disorganization; childhood trauma and abuse; later repeated trauma; and the core features of complex trauma in adults. The seminar will delineate the complex symptoms frequently seen in patients with neglect and traumatic histories. We will then describe the principles upon which a collaborative, therapeutic alliance may be established including a delineation of the three necessary components, or “three pillars,” for the treatment of the disorganized attachment component of complex trauma; three phases of phase-oriented trauma treatment for the trauma; and abuse components of complex trauma. The seminar will also address certain complications in the treatment of complex trauma, such as the contribution of sadistic abuse and factitious behavior to the overall response to treatment. Emphasis will be given to learning step-by-step protocols for the treatment of complex trauma in adults. Teaching format includes didactic lectures, live demonstration of techniques, and audio-recorded case vignettes illustration to main treatment methods.

Upon completion of this activity, participants will be able to:

  • Differentiate simple from complex trauma;
  • Discuss the core features of complex trauma in adults;
  • Explain accurately the difference between secure, dismissing, anxious/preoccupied, and disorganized attachment;
  • Describe the important contribution of attachment disorganization to adult complex trauma;
  • Recognize the trauma-related signs and symptoms of complex posttraumatic stress disorder;
  • Explain the “three pillars” necessary for the treatment of disorganized attachment;
  • Identify the main components of the treatment of disorganized attachment;
  • Identify the three main stages of phase-oriented trauma-treatment;
  • Discuss how attachment disorganization, sadistic abuse, and factitious behavior complicate phase-oriented trauma treatment;
  • Give examples of how to remedy attachment disorganization, sadistic abuse and factitious behavior;
  • Summarize the concept of recovery stages;
  • Identify the markers of successful treatment-outcome;
  • Define strategies for personal and professional support to manage vicarious


Daniel Brown, PhD, ABPH is an Associate Professor of Psychology (part-time), Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Dr. Brown is one the country’s leading thinkers and teachers of psychological trauma and has taught workshops on psychological trauma both nationally and internationally. He is the author of 15 books including two on developmental psychopathology, Human Feelings and Transformation of Consciousness and Attachment Disturbances in Adults: Treatment for Comprehensive Repair, which is his latest book.

Date and timeAgenda Item
Monday, August 2
9:30am – 10:00amRegistration
10:00am – 11:15am Simple vs. complex trauma: etiological factors in the development of complex trauma; core features of complex trauma.
11:15am – 11:30amCoffee Break
11:30am – 1:15pmContribution of neglect and attachment disturbance to complex trauma: the impact of self, relational, and affect developmental lines; development of personality and dissociative disorders as part of core features of complex trauma; subsequent trauma and abuse. Q&A.
Tuesday, August 3
10:00am – 11:15amAssessment and treatment of attachment disturbances as related to complex trauma; self-report vs structured interviews; review of the ‘three pillars’ of treatment of disturbed attachment; the ideal parent figure protocol; fostering collaborative behavior; developing a range of meta-cognitive skills.
11:15am – 11:30am Coffee Break
11:30am – 1:15pmConcepts of early intervention and prevention; optimizing outcomes; treatment of alcohol and substance abuse in patients with psychosis.
Wednesday, August 4
10:00am – 11:15amReview of specific treatment protocols for dismissing, anxious/preocccupied, and disorganized attachment with audio-recorded case illustrations.
11:15am – 11:30am Coffee Break
11:30am – 1:15pmReview of specific treatment protocols for dismissing, anxious/preocccupied, and disorganized attachment with audio-recorded case illustrations.
Thursday, August 5
10:00am – 11:15amSecond Stage of Recovery: review of trauma-processing models; psychodynamic; cognitive-behavioral exposure; re-processing; EMDR; indications for modification of phase-oriented trauma treatment with special interventions regarding disorganized attachment; dissociation; factitious behavior; and victims of sadistic abuse.
11:15am – 11:30am Coffee Break
11:30am – 1:15pmContinue, The Second Stage of Recovery: social action in recovery process; self help, individual group psychotherapy; reconstructing a life narrative that includes traumatic events; working with shattered assumptions and trauma-specific limiting beliefs and schemas; signs of progress, and problems that arise in trauma-processing. Q&A.
Friday, August 5
10:00am – 11:15amThird Stage of Recovery: restoring present connections; development of peer and secure intimate relationships; fostering best self-development; fostering healthy affect regulation; reducing hyper-vigilance and startle sensitivity. Q&A.
11:15am – 11:30am Coffee Break
11:30am – 1:15pmIdentifying the main markers of successful outcome; how to change the course of treatment using the best-fit treatment approach; identifying and managing vicarious traumatization.