Stabilization Skills for Complex Developmental Trauma Disorders

A Centre for Treament Workshop with

Kathy Steele, MN, CS

When: Sat., June 2, 2012 Click to add to your calendar application
Where: Hotel Novotel Ottawa
33 Nicholas Street
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Kathy Steele

Therapists can feel overwhelmed by the many difficulties brought to therapy by adults who were seriously abused and/or neglected as children. No single diagnosis seems sufficient to explain the complex symptoms of these individuals. Over time, trauma and major attachment disruptions have affected critical developmental phases and impacted the neurobiology of these clients. They may suffer from a wide array of problems, including depression, anxiety, attention deficit, substance abuse, self harm, eating and sleeping problems, somatic problems, relationship and sexual issues, difficulties with impulse and emotion regulation, identity problems, personality problems, and dissociation.

While the commonly accepted treatment for single incident or acute trauma disorder is working through traumatic memories, clients who have complex developmental trauma disorders typically need an often prolonged period of stabilization and skills building prior to memory work; otherwise they often run the risk of being overwhelmed and decompensation. They generally require more diverse skills, developmental repair, and depth work on conflicts and attachment problems than those who suffer from classic PTSD.

This practical workshop will focus on stabilization skills include mentalizing and other reflective functioning, self and relational regulation, compensating for executive dysfunction, developing inner safety and self compassion, managing inner conflicts, resolving inner directed phobias, and working with dissociative parts of the self. Because these clients present with multiple problems and often with chaotic lives, we will also focus on how to prioritize goals, contain crises, and stay on course in therapy. Transference and countertransference will also be addressed.

The workshop will include lecture, case presentations, and role play demonstrations.

Educational Objectives

In this workshop, participants will learn how to:

  • Employ at least five techniques to develop regulatory skills in individuals with complex dissociative disorders
  • Describe skills to cope with daily life in individuals with complex dissociative disorders
  • Describe strategies to stay on course and contain crisis in therapy.


Registration is now closed.

Tentative Schedule

Saturday, June 2, 2012
8:30 9:00 Registration and Refreshments
9:00 10:30 Understanding Complex Developmental Trauma Disorders
The Polyvagal Theory and Action Systems in Safety and Threat
Trauma-Related Phobias
How to present skills
10:30 11:00 Refreshments
11:00 12:30

Pacing the Therapy

Therapeutic Frame (Including Limits and Boundaries)
The Role of the Therapist
Crisis Management
Self and Relational Regulation
Inner Safety
Overcoming the Phobia of Inner Experience
12:30 1:30 Lunch (on your own)
1:30 3:00 Reflection / Mentalizing
Overcoming the Phobia of Attachment and Attachment Loss
Containment skills
Working with Dissociation
3:00 3:30 Refreshments
3:30 5:00 Working with Dissociation, cont’d.

Daily Life Skills

Executive functioning (planning, prioritizing, time management, etc.)
Additional Skills

Kathy Steele

Kathy Steele, MN, CS is Clinical Director of Metropolitan Counseling Services, a non profit, psychotherapy and training center, and is in private practice in Atlanta, Georgia. She is a Fellow and past President of the International Society for the Study of Trauma (ISSTD). Kathy has received several international awards for her work, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from ISSTD in 2010. She frequently teaches about complex trauma and dissociation around the world, and has authored or co-authored numerous publications in the field, including two books, Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation: Skills Training for Patients and Therapists (Boon, Steele, & Van der Hart, 2011), and The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation of the Personality and Treatment of Chronic Traumatization (Van der Hart, Nijenhuis, & Steele, 2006). She and her colleagues are currently working on a clinical manual on treatment issues and impasses in complex developmental trauma disorders.

For further information, please read Kathy Steele’s CV.


Boon, S., Steele, K., & Van der Hart, O. (2011). Coping with trauma-related dissociation: Skills training for patients and therapists. New York: W. W. Norton.

Chu, J. (2011). Rebuilding shattered lives: Treating Complex PTSD and Dissociative Disorders. (2nd ed.) New York: Wiley.

Courtois, C. A., & Ford, J. (2010). Treating Complex PTSD: Evidence-based treatment. New York: Guildford.

Steele, K., Van der Hart, O., & Nijenhuis, E.R.S. (2005). Phase-oriented treatment of structural dissociation in complex traumatization: Overcoming trauma-related phobias. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 6(3),11-53.

Van der Hart, O., Nijenjuis, E., & Steele, K. (2006). The haunted self: Structural dissociation of the personality and treatment of chronic traumatization. New York: W. W. Norton.