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Ruth Lanius video: Trauma Related Dissociation and Your Client’s ‘Brilliant Brain’

Ruth Lanius on critical breakthroughs in trauma research, helping dissociated clients to be present with the environment and their bodies – and why we should always begin trauma therapy by honouring our client’s neurobiological adaptive responses.

Working With Suicide, Self-Harm & Trauma Online Summit

16-17 November 2023

Many clients with trauma related dissociation come to therapy thinking they are ‘crazy’. Perhaps they are losing connection with the past in vivid flashbacks, having out of body experiences, or feeling everything around them is unreal. Perhaps they are ‘losing’ chunks of time – finding themselves unable to remember where they were or what they were doing. Possibly they are struggling to relate to another and have started to doubt whether they have a self at all.

No wonder some of these clients think Dr Ruth Lanius is the ‘crazy’ one when she tells them their brain has done an amazing job.

Yet, as the world leading trauma researcher and psychiatrist shares in an inspiring and richly informative discussion with PESI UK, her starting point in trauma work is always to honour the client’s brain – a brain that has adapted in order to help the individual survive the impossible or the unbearable.

Ruth’s research into the mechanisms of the brain that produce dissociative trauma symptoms involves neuroimaging. Instead of a brain that is ‘abnormal’, Ruth sees “a brain that’s been brilliant”. And she begins by helping the client to see this, too.

Ruth sums up dissociation as “a psychological escape when no physical escape is possible”. In the free video below, she offers deep insights into an “incredibly adaptive response” that nevertheless has profound implications for individuals in the aftermath of trauma.

We learn about the different forms of dissociation, and the five dimensions of consciousness that may be impacted by trauma: time, thought, body, emotion and intersubjectivity. And we hear how we can apply the neurobiology of the traumatised brain with our clients.  

How can we help clients to come back into their bodies – and why might a pulse oximeter be a useful addition to our trauma toolkit?

What is so critical about an area of the brain called the periaqueductal gray, and why are Ruth’s team so excited about the dual mode network?  

How did Ruth begin to work with a profoundly disconnected client who could not access any physical sensations at all?

When individuals with a fragmented sense of self are disgusted with some of their parts, what can we do to work towards wholeness?

Watch this video to hear how neuroimaging is making visible the invisible injury of trauma and starting to map therapy’s restoration of the self – and to share Ruth’s deep admiration and respect for the incredible brains of our traumatised clients.


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