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Parents Under Siege: The Impact of ACEs on Parenting

Parents Under Siege: The Impact of ACEs on Parenting

Recent research consistently underscores how childhood adversity – including maltreatment, trauma, neglect, or household dysfunction – significantly impacts an individual’s transition to parenthood and subsequent parental efficacy. With or without the blueprint of secure attachment patterns, being a parent with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) increases the risk of their children also suffering from ACEs, thus creating a transgenerational cycle of deprivation and/or trauma.  

Times on both days:
5:00 pm – 8:00 pm, London UK

12:00 pm – 3:00 pm, New York, USA

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Original price was: £ 149.00.Current price is: £ 109.00.

Quantity:

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Course Credits

CPD: 6 / CE: 6

Speaker(s)

Dr Gwen Adshead, Dr Gerry Byrne, Dr Sheena Webb

Course length in hours

6 hrs of video content

Location

Online streaming only

Full course information

Clients who have experienced childhood adversity tend to face heightened challenges during their transition to parenthood, as they navigate unresolved trauma, insecure attachment patterns, and difficulties in establishing secure parent-child attachment. Because of their emotionally dysregulated childhoods, their journey into parenthood is often fraught with similar patterns of volatile interactions, punitive disciplining strategies, impaired mentalization, maladaptive behaviours, parental stress, burnout and even substance abuse.  

When the complex interplay of psychological processes, for example mentalization, becomes disrupted in individuals with a history of ACEs, it can significantly impair their capacity to understand and respond to their child’s mental states. Moreover, latest epigenetic studies show how early environmental exposures shape neurobiological pathways, predisposing individuals to heightened stress reactivity and diminished emotion regulation, further impeding a smooth transition to parenthood. Consequently, this diminished quality of parent-child relationship during early parenting years has enduring implications for the child’s emotional regulation, social competence, and mental well-being across the lifespan.

This two-part webinar series aims to equip counsellors and therapists with advanced insights into the complex interplay between trauma exposure and parenting dynamics. Through a blend of theoretical discourse, clinical case studies, and evidence-based interventions, participants will deepen their understanding of how various forms of trauma can profoundly influence parental states of mind and behaviour. Led by our eminent speakers, each session will delve into crucial aspects of assessment, formulation, and intervention, offering practical tools for supporting traumatised parents and enhancing child well-being.

At this therapeutically-oriented, cutting-edge webinar suffused with clinical case studies and practical vignettes, Dr Gwen Adshead,  who works in the field of  Attachment Theory and Parenting, will first discuss transition to parenting in the context of a history of ACEs and trauma.  She will then discuss how impaired parent mentalization resulting from ACEs and trauma affects the parent-child dyad including reduced empathy, parental stress, as well as attachment, social and relational outcomes for the child. Here she will also build upon their profound interaction with epigenetics and interrelation with transgenerational trauma and its impact on parenting and the parent-child bonds.

Dr Sheena Webb, our next key speaker who has extensive experience working with high-risk families, will use clinical case studies and vignettes to explore the spectrum of responses to trauma and childhood adversity and how this leads to a wide range of behavioural and interpersonal outcomes in parenting. Drawing on her clinical experience, she will navigate the complex terrain of trauma-related issues, examining how adaptation to threat may impact emotional regulation and interpersonal dynamics.

In the second part of this course, Sheena will draw on contemporary theories of trauma, in particular the Internal Family Systems (IFS) theory that offers understanding of the complex dynamics of parent-child relationships when built under the pressure of ACEs. She will be joined by Dr Gerry Byrne, founder of the Lighthouse MBT Programme, who has held a long interest in working with parents and their children with disorganized attachments and trauma. He will describe a mentalization-based therapeutic approach with parents that clinically applies the theoretical concepts of agentive self and alien self to enable understanding of the self, as individual and as parent, and to facilitate the apprehension of the other, the previously ‘unknown’ or ‘unseen’ child.

As therapists, we must carefully discern how trauma-related issues directly or indirectly manifest in the parent-child relationship, recognising that parents may struggle to provide consistent care and emotional support due to their own unresolved trauma. The agentive self represents the core, authentic aspect of the individual, capable of empathy, compassion, and attunement to their child’s needs. Conversely, the alien self embodies the fragmented, neglected and wounded parts of the psyche that have been shaped by past traumatic experiences, leading to defensive responses and maladaptive coping mechanisms. In the context of parenting, these internal dynamics may manifest as inner conflicts between the desire to nurture and protect one’s child (agentive self) and the fear, shame, or anger triggered by unresolved trauma (alien self).

Gerry Byrne will outline how the Lighthouse MBT Parenting programme endeavours to enable parents to see and connect with their children while acknowledging their difficulties in doing so consistently. Gwen and Sheena will deepen our understanding of what gets in the way of parents responding to their children’s needs, and being able to recognize the impact of their behaviour.  

By adopting a trauma-informed approach that acknowledges the complex interplay between past trauma, present parenting challenges, and systemic factors, we can better support parents in navigating their journey towards healing and fostering secure parent-child attachments.

Fostering a therapeutic alliance grounded in empathy and non-judgment, we, as clinicians, can support parents in accessing their agentive self, facilitating a deeper understanding of the underlying trauma-related triggers and their impact on parenting behaviours. Through this process of self-exploration and healing, parents can develop greater attunement to their child’s needs, enhance their capacity for reflective parenting, and foster secure attachment relationships based on mutual trust and emotional reciprocity.

Workshop presenters will use clinical examples and case vignettes; and there will be time for Q&A and discussion where attendees can ask questions and clarify doubts.

Specifically, the workshop will help us:

  • Understand the profound impact of childhood adversity on an individual’s transition to parenthood and subsequent parental efficacy, drawing on empirical research and theoretical frameworks such as attachment theory and transgenerational trauma.
  • Explore the intricate interplay between psychological processes, such as mentalizing abilities, and early adverse experiences, recognizing their implications for the parent-child relationship and parental functioning. 
  • Examine the role of epigenetic mechanisms in shaping neurobiological pathways and predisposing individuals to heightened stress reactivity and emotion dysregulation, particularly in the context of the transition to parenthood.
  • Identify manifestations of trauma-related challenges in parenting, including attachment difficulties, emotional dysregulation, and maladaptive parenting behaviours, and recognize their clinical significance.
  • Assess and formulate a parent’s difficulties with their children through a trauma-informed lens, and its impact on clinical, behavioural, and interpersonal outcomes.
  • Analyse how adaptation to threat may lead to difficulties with emotional regulation and interpersonal safety behaviours, and explore strategies for addressing these challenges in therapeutic interventions.
  • Explore the concepts of the agentive selfand the alien self within the context of parenting, drawing on Internal Family Systems (IFS) theory to understand how past trauma influences parental responses and perceptions of children’s needs.
  • Develop skills in recognizing and addressing the impact of parental trauma on the parent-child relationship, fostering internal coherence and enhancing parental capacity for responsive and empathetic caregiving. 
  • Engage in interactive case studies and discussions facilitated by experts in the field, applying theoretical concepts to real-world scenarios and enhancing clinical competence in working with parents affected by trauma.
  • Reflect on current system’s understanding of and response to trauma-related issues, considering ways to mitigate the compounding effects of systemic barriers on parenting and promote more effective support for families affected by adversity.

Overall, the workshop focusses on how as therapists, our interventions aimed at supporting parents with a history of childhood adversity need to prioritize addressing underlying trauma, enhancing parental reflective functioning, and fostering secure attachment relationships to mitigate the intergenerational transmission of adverse outcomes and promote positive parenting practices.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Discuss the intricate interplay between psychological processes, such as mentalizing abilities, and early adverse experiences, recognizing their implications for the parent-child relationship and parental functioning. 
  • Explain the role of epigenetic mechanisms in shaping neurobiological pathways and predisposing individuals to heightened stress reactivity and emotion dysregulation, particularly in the context of the transition to parenthood.
  • Identify manifestations of trauma-related challenges in parenting, including attachment difficulties, emotional dysregulation, and maladaptive parenting behaviours, and recognize their clinical significance.
  • Assess and formulate a parent’s difficulties with their children through a trauma-informed lens, and its impact on clinical, behavioural, and interpersonal outcomes.
  • Analyse how adaptation to threat may lead to difficulties with emotional regulation and interpersonal safety behaviours, and explore strategies for addressing these challenges in therapeutic interventions.
  • Discuss the impact of parental trauma on the parent-child relationship, fostering internal coherence and enhancing parental capacity for responsive and empathetic caregiving. 

© nscience 2024 / 2025

What's included in this course

What you’ll learn

Overall, the workshop focusses on how as therapists, our interventions aimed at supporting parents with a history of childhood adversity need to prioritize addressing underlying trauma, enhancing parental reflective functioning, and fostering secure attachment relationships to mitigate the intergenerational transmission of adverse outcomes and promote positive parenting practices.

Learning objectives

  • Discuss the intricate interplay between psychological processes, such as mentalizing abilities, and early adverse experiences, recognizing their implications for the parent-child relationship and parental functioning. 
  • Explain the role of epigenetic mechanisms in shaping neurobiological pathways and predisposing individuals to heightened stress reactivity and emotion dysregulation, particularly in the context of the transition to parenthood.
  • Identify manifestations of trauma-related challenges in parenting, including attachment difficulties, emotional dysregulation, and maladaptive parenting behaviours, and recognize their clinical significance.
  • Assess and formulate a parent’s difficulties with their children through a trauma-informed lens, and its impact on clinical, behavioural, and interpersonal outcomes.
  • Analyse how adaptation to threat may lead to difficulties with emotional regulation and interpersonal safety behaviours, and explore strategies for addressing these challenges in therapeutic interventions.
  • Discuss the impact of parental trauma on the parent-child relationship, fostering internal coherence and enhancing parental capacity for responsive and empathetic caregiving. 

You'll also be able to...

Develop the ability to interpret and modulate the body’s nervous system (sensory and autonomic) to regulate arousal levels in clients and for safer trauma therapy

Identify and acquire recovery options and strategies for trauma clients inappropriate for trauma memory processing, particularly for those who don’t want to and those who decompensate or dysregulate from memory work

Also develop the ability to interpret and modulate the body’s nervous system (sensory and autonomic) to regulate arousal levels for professional self-care

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.

Dr Gerry Byrne is Head of Attachment and Perinatal Services for Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, including the Family Assessment & Safeguarding Service (FASS Oxford, Wiltshire and Bath & North East Somerset), the Infant Parent Perinatal Service (IPPS) and the ReConnect Service (Buckinghamshire). The FASS and ReConnect services offer multidisciplinary, expert witness assessments and NHS treatments for severe parenting problems, including child abuse and neglect (physical, sexual, psychological maltreatment, and fabricated and induced illness). Gerry is also Clinical Lead for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy for the Trust for Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. He has worked in CAMHS for over 30 years, and since 1990 he has specialised in the assessment of parent-infant relationships and attachment, and the individual assessment and treatment of parents who have abused their infants/children.

He is the originator of the Lighthouse Mentalization Based Treatment-Parenting Programme, an innovative application of MBT, which aims to prevent child maltreatment by promoting sensitive caregiving in parents. He has trained clinicians in the programme in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Denmark and Australia.

Dr Sheena Webb, BAHons MSc DClinPsy CPsychol, is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist providing private assessment and treatment services for individuals of all ages experiencing a variety of psychological issues. Her therapeutic approach is primarily grounded in Cognitive Behavioural theories, complemented by her extensive experience working with families.

Dr. Webb earned her qualifications from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London in 2003. She has since amassed significant experience across various NHS settings, specializing in the treatment of young people and families with complex needs. She continues to contribute to the NHS as part of a specialist assessment and treatment team for high-risk families and serves as an expert witness for the courts.

In addition to her NHS work, Dr. Webb is the Joint Clinical Lead for the Pan London Family Drug and Alcohol Court and has a keen interest in Trauma Informed Practice within the family courts. She has been offering private therapy since 2005 and is a registered Practitioner Psychologist with the Health Professionals Council as well as a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society.

Program outline

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