Working with Early Relational Trauma A 2-day Symposium at London with Dr Gwen Adshead, Marcus West, Dr Arielle Schwartz, Dr Karen Treisman and Dr Terence Nice London, 24 January & 25 January 2019 (Thursday & Friday) 10:00am - 4:00pm on both days

At this practical symposium, which would be especially relevant for psychotherapists, psychologists, counsellors and psychiatrists, we aim to comprehend the underlying dynamics of our clients’ apparently destructive and entrenched ways of relating and affective somatic responses; with a view to enhancing our therapeutic efficacy when working with the myriad manifestations of early relational trauma. The symposium draws on recent advances in developmental psychology, infant psychiatry, Attachment research and trauma theory to explore how early relational trauma underlies, structures and becomes embodied in the personality.


We explore:


  • The patterns associated with early relational trauma and how these emerge in the consulting room
  • How we can, as therapists, look beyond ill-adaptive behavioural patterns and unravel the complex and conflicted nature of what is being expressed
  • How we can recognise and work with the foundational, traumatic experiences of our clients
  • How we can comprehend nihilism, shame, suicidality, anxiety, regression and narcissistic wounding within the context of early relational trauma


Through lectures, audience interactions, case examples and panel discussions, the symposium explores how therapists can be deeply affected by, and drawn into, the dynamics related to relational trauma. Specifically, we look at situations that can lead to impasse and how these can be worked through.


The symposium helps us understand:


  • The effects of trauma on the psyche-soma: primitive defensive responses, dissociation and disruption of ego-functioning
  • The dynamics of the traumatic complex – the key to understanding and working with early relational trauma
  • Dissociation, regression and negative therapeutic reaction
  • The fight, flight, freeze, collapse responses in relation to anxiety, shame, regression, suicidality and murderousness
  • Insecure Attachment and the links with adult psychopathology
  • Resilience Informed Approach – an integrative methodology for working with early relational trauma
  • What can lead to retraumatisation, regression and therapeutic impasse – and the mitigating steps we need to take as therapists



Symposium Schedule




Day 1, Thursday, 24 January 2019 10:00am: Dr Terence Nice: Setting our Objectives 10:05am – 12:05pm: Dr Gwen Adshead: Early Relational Trauma, Attachment Failures and Adult Psychopathology In this session, Dr Gwen Adshead reviews the evidence that insecurity of attachment; concomitant with early relational trauma enhances susceptibility to a range of psychopathologies. She discusses the role of epigenetics and developmental trajectories, with specific focus on adult dysfunctions that relate to care-giving and care-seeking behaviours. We look at abnormal illness behaviour, long term conditions and personality disorders in this context. 12:05pm – 1:00pm: panel discussion and audience questions, hosted by Dr Terence Nice 1:00pm – 2:00pm: Lunch Break (a light lunch is provided as part of the symposium) 2:00pm – 4:00pm: Dr Arielle Schwartz: Working with Early Relational Trauma and Dissociation: A Resilience Informed Approach Growing up afraid, has ramifications for cognitive, emotional and physical development that persist into adulthood until one has sufficient support to heal. This is not a character weakness; it is a learned stress disorder. In this engaging and practical discussion for which Dr Arielle Schwartz joins us live through online video from the US, we consider how therapists can help their clients reclaim their lives from the costs of childhood trauma by deepening compassion and reducing shame that often accompanies developmental wounds. Dr Schwartz presents a Resilience Informed Approach, which applies research on trauma recovery to form a strength-based, trauma treatment model that includes EMDR therapy, somatic psychology, parts-work and relational psychotherapy. 4:00pm: Close
Day 2, Friday, 25 January 2019 10:00am: Dr Terence Nice: our understanding so far 10:05am – 12:05pm: Marcus West: Working with Profound Early Relational Trauma In this talk, we look at the consequence of profound early relational trauma, where the infant’s basic needs to attach and the basic expression of their needs and distress has been unbearable to the caregiver. We consider how the traumatised baby becomes central to the therapy and is co-constructed in the therapy relationship in a very powerful way. We explore some of the patterns of relating that follow and can typically lead to states of retraumatisation, profound regression (that Balint described as ‘malignant’), therapeutic impasse, and often the breakdown of the therapy. The session considers how working with these states involves understanding and addressing the fundamentals of relationship (as they manifest in the therapy relationship). Marcus challenges traditional ways of attempting to build a positive sense of self and self-agency, and suggests more realistic and effective ways of working with such profound narcissistic wounding; with the ‘mirror trap’, where the person hopes in vain that the therapist’s positive response will repair their early wounds; with sadistic, masochistic, and suicidal states of mind; with envy and idealisation; and with states of annihilation and shame. 12:05pm – 1:00pm: panel discussion: Dr Terence Nice, Marcus West, Karen Treisman 1:00pm – 2:00pm: Lunch Break (a light lunch is provided as part of the symposium) 2:00pm – 4:00pm: Dr Karen Treisman: Relational Trauma and the Impact on a Child's Sense of Self Building on our understanding of Early Relational Trauma, in this session, Dr Treisman explains the practical ways in which relational and developmental trauma can impact a child’s sense of self; and their assumptions and beliefs about themselves, others and the world. The session utilises metaphors, case material, and acted out examples to explore such impact – so we can consider how this presents in clinical settings. We consider and explore how, as therapists we need to comprehend a child's relational style and templates; and how these can impact what we see in therapy and in carer-child relationships. 4:00pm: Close
About the speakers Dr Gwen Adshead is a Forensic Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist. She trained at St George's Hospital, the Institute of Psychiatry and the Institute of Group Analysis. She is trained as a group therapist and a Mindfulness-based cognitive therapist and has also trained in Mentalisation-based therapy. She worked for nearly twenty years as a Consultant Forensic Psychotherapist at Broadmoor Hospital, running psychotherapeutic groups for offenders and working with staff around relational security and organisational dynamics. She is the co-editor of Clinical topics in Personality Disorder (with Dr Jay Sarkar) which was awarded first prize in the psychiatry Section of the BMA book awards 2013; and she also co-edited Personality Disorder: the Definitive Collection with Dr Caroline Jacob. She is the co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Forensic Psychiatry (2013) and the Oxford Handbook of Medical Psychotherapy (2016). She is also the co-editor of Munchausens’s Syndrome by Proxy: Current issues in Assessment, Treatment and Research. Marcus West is a Training Analyst at the Society of Analytical Psychology and is on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Analytical Psychology. His latest book, Into the Darkest Places - Early Relational Trauma and Borderline States of Mind, was published by Karnac in 2016. He is also the author of: Feeling, Being and the Sense of Self: A new perspective on identity, affect and narcissistic disorders (2007), and Understanding Dreams in Clinical Practice (2011). He was joint winner of the Michael Fordham Prize in 2004, has written several papers, contributed chapters to books, and taught and lectured widely in UK and abroad. Currently, Marcus works at his private practice in Sussex. Arielle Schwartz, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist, EMDR Therapy consultant, and certified yoga instructor with a private practice in Boulder, Colorado. She earned her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Fielding Graduate University and holds a Master’s degree in Somatic Psychology through Naropa University. She is the author of two books: The Complex PTSD Workbook: A Mind-Body Approach to Emotional Control and Becoming Whole (Althea Press, 2017) and EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology: Interventions to Enhance Embodiment in Trauma Treatment (W. W. Norton, in Press). She is a core teacher with The Maiberger Institute offering Advanced Workshops on topics of EMDR Therapy, Somatic Psychology, Attachment Trauma, and Chronic Pain. Her psychotherapy practice specializes in PTSD, Complex PTSD, grief and loss, resilience, and therapeutic yoga. She is dedicated to offering informational mental health and wellness updates through her writing, public speaking, social media presence, and blog. Dr Karen Treisman is a highly specialised Clinical Psychologist working in the assessment and treatment of developmental difficulties, trauma attachment disorders and child mental health. In addition to holding a doctorate in Clinical Psychology, she has undergone a range of specialist trainings including in EMDR, Narrative Therapy, Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy, Sensory Attachment Intervention, and Theraplay. She has worked in the NHS and children’s services for several years and also cross-culturally in both Africa and Asia with groups ranging from former child soldiers to survivors of the Rwandan Genocide as well as with children in care or on the edge of care, adopted children and unaccompanied asylum-seeking, trafficked and refugee young people. She is an external consultant, trainer, and assessor to Barnardos Adoption Service, Grandparents Plus, PAC-UK, Hope for families, and the Fostering Network. Dr Treisman regularly delivers training and presents at local, national, and international trauma, parenting, and attachment conferences. She is also the author of several books including the Routledge published Working with relational and developmental trauma in children and adolescents. Dr Terence Nice is Lecturer in Psychological Therapies in the Centre for Professional Practice at the University of Kent and a practicing Specialist Psychotherapist in the NHS. He is Chair of Ethics and trained as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist at the University of Kent before going onto the MA in infant observation at the Tavistock Clinic, London. Dr Nice has been fascinated by a developmental trajectory with regards to child, adolescent and adult self-harm and attempted suicide. Dr Nice is a member of the UKCP Research Faculty Committee and has chaired and co-chaired the second and third annual UKCP research conferences, respectively. He is a journal reviewer for the British Journal of Psychotherapy and the British Journal of Social Work Practice.

Continuing professional development through seminars, workshops and conferences for psychotherapists, counsellors and psychologists.