Skip to content

Attachment, Relational Trauma and Personality Disorders

The event:

Early experiences in childhood shape how we relate to others and how much we value ourselves in relationships. How parents and caregivers relate and respond to their child from infancy forms the basis, or template of later attachments in childhood and adulthood. Research has shown that adverse childhood experiences, relational trauma and early narcissistic injuries can render individuals vulnerable to developing personality disorders.

This training day looks at the factors that inhibit attachment such as lack of attunement and mentalisation, trauma, dissociation, shame, traumatic bonding, and fear of abandonment.. In presenting relevant elements of attachment theory and research, it will look at the role of attachment, the range of attachment styles, including disorganised attachment, and how these link to personality disorders, in particular Borderline Personality Disorder (aka Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder), Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Anti-social Personality. It will explore how personality disorders present in the therapeutic space and how they impact on the therapeutic relationship.

Emphasis will be placed on understanding personality disorders as adaptations to impaired attachments in childhood. This is supported by clinical formulations that reframe personality disorders as disorders of attachment and relational trauma rathe than a personality disorders. The focus will be on understanding ‘what happened to’ to the person rather than ‘what is the problem’ and what they had to do to survive including enduring changes in their sense of self and personality. This reformulation of personality disorders enables therapist to work in a more compassionate, non-judgemental and non-shaming way, and humanise those who have been labelled with a personality disorder and enable them to make contact and facilitate connection.

Learning Outcomes

• Understand the link between attachment theory and range of attachment styles

• Identify the impact of relational trauma and traumatic bonding

• Examine the link between impaired attachment in childhood and vulnerability to developing personality disorders

• Identify the link between Borderline Personality Disorder (aka Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder), Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Anti-Social Personality and early attachment experiences

• Introduce the Power Threat Meaning Framework as an alternative to psychiatric diagnosis

• How to understand and reframe personality disorders as adaptations to relational threats and viewing them as enduring personality changes rather than a disorder

• Explore how to work with enduring personality changes in the therapeutic space with compassion rather than judgement

The Trainer:

Christiane Sanderson BSc, MSc. is a senior lecturer in Psychology at the University of Roehampton, of London with over 30 years of experience working with survivors of childhood sexual abuse and sexual violence. She has delivered consultancy, continuous professional development and professional training for parents, teachers, social workers, nurses, therapists, counsellors, solicitors, the NSPCC, Towards Healing, Ireland. the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Committee, the Methodist Church, the Metropolitan Police Service, SOLACE, the Refugee Council, Birmingham City Council Youth Offending Team, and HMP Bronzefield.