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Joining the Dots: Right Brain, Vagus Nerve and the Treatment of Trauma: Video Course

Joining the Dots: Right Brain, Vagus Nerve and the Treatment of Trauma: Video Course

In the last 10 years, studies have confirmed the impact of the interaction between adverse childhood experiences and genetic variations on the development of mood regulation and other aspects of psychopathology. More recent research in neuroscience is exploring the links between exposure to childhood trauma and neuronal development, which clarify how exposure to different kinds of childhood trauma might affect brain development; and how associated attachment difficulties might act as a mediator between childhood trauma and adult psychopathology.

Video course packs, including all notes are available immediately on booking. The access links are part of your ticket. Online video access remains available for 1 year from the date you receive the video course.

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There is no known commercial support for this programme.

This course does not qualify for CE credits.

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$185.13

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Course Credits

CPD: 6 / CE: N/A

Speaker(s)

Dr Gwen Adshead, Tom Higgins

Course length in hours

6 hrs of video content

Full course information

In this two-part workshop, Dr Gwen Adshead and Tom Higgins will explore what makes this research of particular interest to us as psychotherapists, psychologists and counsellors. They will build on the work of Professors Allan Schore, Bruce Perry and Peter Fonagy, to present information about normal infant brain development, the importance of when trauma happens and why some kind of adverse childhood experiences are especially toxic to psychosocial development. They will discuss some of the contemporary discussion about the importance of the right brain development, which develops ahead of the left brain and so may be more susceptible to the effects of trauma. They will draw on the work of Iain McGilchrist to explore why the right brain is so important to relational experience, and what happens if the left brain is functionally dominant.

We know that the right brain is important for affect regulation, mentalisation function and embodied awareness. In addition, there is now more understanding of the importance of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), in particular the vagus nerve, in affect regulation.  The vagus nerve develops in childhood to connect the PNS with the central nervous system in brain; including the limbic system, hind brain and the HPA axis.  The vagus has a role in regulating the PNS and supports a vital connection between the brain and body. Greater understanding of vagal activity can help us think about what happens in therapeutic encounters, and help clients create emotional resilience, mitigate anxiety and stabilise Affect Regulation.  Finally, this recent research raises powerful questions about traditions in psychotherapy which focus on exploration of past trauma in ways that do not take account of present state experience.

Gwen Adshead will present on the theory of attachment trauma and its impact on brain development during the early years. Tom Higgins will present clinical vignettes that illustrate how attachment trauma and insecurity can impact transgenerationally; and also how therapeutic techniques need to be modified to include compassion focussed interventions and attention to embodied experiences.

On day 1, we specially explore issues relating to:

  • The Neuroscience behind Trauma and Attachment Relationships  
  • Why Childhood Trauma can make a client more vulnerable to Stress Dysregulation
  • ACES and Attachment  
  • Why the right brain is important to the sense of self and others; and embodiment
  • Affect regulation and the role of the vagus nerve

On Day 2, we focus on the clinical implications of the neuroscience of brain development and environmental hazard; and how this might affect our choice of therapeutic tools, and an improved understanding of therapeutic relationships.

We will discuss neuroplasticity and how therapeutic conversation might help make changes at the level of the synapse in different neural networks. We will also discuss dysregulation of affect and arousal and how embodied approaches may be helpful.

In particular, we use clinical vignettes to explore:

  • How and why attachment insecurity in both client and therapist can be problematic, in terms of effects of brain bias in relationships and use of dysfunctional defences.
  • Emerging themes about the treatment of the long-term effects of trauma
  • How we can help our clients stay emotionally grounded
  • Re-enactments of trauma
  • Why the Right Brain Is vital to the client’s core sense of self and to therapist mentalising   
  • On not ignoring anger

Learning Objectives:

  • Explain the Neuroscience behind Trauma and Attachment Relationships  
  • Discuss why Childhood Trauma can make a client more vulnerable to Stress Dysregulation
  • Explain why the right brain is important to the sense of self and others; and embodiment
  • Discuss how and why attachment insecurity in both client and therapist can be problematic, in terms of effects of brain bias in relationships and use of dysfunctional defences.
  • Discuss how we can help our clients stay emotionally grounded

Explain why the Right Brain Is vital to the client’s core sense of self and to therapist mentalising

© nscience 2023 / 2024

What's included in this course

What you’ll learn

In this two-part workshop, Dr Gwen Adshead and Tom Higgins will explore what makes this research of particular interest to us as psychotherapists, psychologists and counsellors. They will build on the work of Professors Allan Schore, Bruce Perry and Peter Fonagy, to present information about normal infant brain development, the importance of when trauma happens and why some kind of adverse childhood experiences are especially toxic to psychosocial development. They will discuss some of the contemporary discussion about the importance of the right brain development, which develops ahead of the left brain and so may be more susceptible to the effects of trauma. They will draw on the work of Iain McGilchrist to explore why the right brain is so important to relational experience, and what happens if the left brain is functionally dominant.

Learning objectives

  • Explain the Neuroscience behind Trauma and Attachment Relationships  
  • Discuss why Childhood Trauma can make a client more vulnerable to Stress Dysregulation
  • Explain why the right brain is important to the sense of self and others; and embodiment
  • Discuss how and why attachment insecurity in both client and therapist can be problematic, in terms of effects of brain bias in relationships and use of dysfunctional defences.
  • Discuss how we can help our clients stay emotionally grounded
  • Explain why the Right Brain Is vital to the client’s core sense of self and to therapist mentalising   

About the speaker(s)

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. Gwen also has a Masters’ Degree in Medical Law and Ethics; and has a research interest in moral reasoning, and how this links with ‘bad’ behaviour.

Gwen has published a number of books and over 100 papers, book chapters and commissioned articles on forensic psychotherapy, ethics in psychiatry, and attachment theory as applied to medicine and forensic psychiatry.  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. Her latest book, The Deluded Self: Narcissism and its Disorders (2020) is out now with nscience publishing house.

Tom Higgins is an attachment based psychoanalytic psychotherapist. He is a teacher, training therapist and training supervisor at the Bowlby Centre. He has trained in multiple modalities including group analysis, EMDR, Compassion-focused therapy and Mentalisation-based therapy.

He has worked for 25 years in NHS mental health services including Child and Adolescent mental health services and in Peri-natal mental health. For the past 15 years, much of his work has been with clients with complex trauma many of whom are struggling to look after themselves and struggling to parent their children.

He is passionate about supporting parents to understand the impact of their own childhood trauma and breaking inter-generational cycles, so as to enable them to better attune to the psychological needs of their children.

He now works in private practice as an individual, couple and group psychotherapist.

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