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Updates on Dissociation and Safety Planning for At-Risk Clients

Bethany Brand, Ph.D.
September 15, 2017, 9:00 am - 4:30 pm
Sheraton Hotel, Beltsville, MD.
6 CEs, $175/MPA/MSPA members, $260/Non-members

Workshop Instructional Level: Intermediate- Participants should have some familiarity with the impact of trauma and a preliminary understanding of PTSD and its treatment.

There is no potential conflict of interest and/or commercial support for this program or its presenter.

Part One:Severe dissociative symptoms are common among individuals who experienced complex, developmental trauma. Individuals with dissociative reactions to trauma are among the most challenging patients to treat due to the severity and breadth of their symptoms. Furthermore, few clinicians have been trained in the assessment and treatment of patients with complex trauma and dissociation. It is common for clinicians to feel de-skilled and overwhelmed when working with these individuals. Their poor affect regulation skills make them prone to self-destructive and suicidal behavior. Therefore, treatment should be carefully planned and paced, guided by ongoing assessment of their symptoms and skills.

The goal of the first half of the workshop is to provide an update to participants about the assessment and treatment of severe dissociative reactions. Dr. Brand will present an overview of the neurobiological research about dissociation and the rationale for adapting trauma treatment that is informed by these neurobiological patterns. She will briefly review the assessment of dissociation and complex trauma, followed by discussing expert recommendations for treating dissociative disorders. Dr. Brand will present research on the early results of the Treatment of Patients with Dissociative Disorders (TOP DD) Network program - the first online, psychoeducational program aimed at helping patients with dissociative disorders and their therapists stabilize patients' safety, emotion regulation, and dissociation. Participants in the TOP DD Network program show increased self-compassion, decreased symptoms, and improved affect regulation and quality of life. Dr. Brand will provide step-by-step guidance on implementing some of the TOP DD Network interventions in clinical practice. Dr. Brand will present research, describe cases, show patients' art work and journaling, and teach grounding interventions that are useful when working with highly dissociative patients.

Part Two:The goal of the second half of the workshop is to provide clinicians with a deeper understanding of how to help clients stabilize their safety. We will review some of the variables that increase a client's difficulties with safety including non-suicidal self-injury and suicidality. Clients with developmental trauma, attachment difficulties, and poor affect regulation are among the most challenging clients to treat because of the frequency and chronicity of their safety struggles. Yet working with these individuals is also powerful and rewarding. Understanding how childhood trauma and attachment difficulties contribute to clients' safety struggles can vastly improve clinicians' conceptualization of their clients' struggles, aid in treatment planning, and make this work more manageable and effective. Dr. Brand will present steps for assisting clients with stabilizing their safety struggles. Clinical vignettes, lecture, discussion, and a video will be used to demonstrate treatment approaches.

This workshop is designed to help you:

  1. Demonstrate how to assess a client for dissociation and complex trauma
  2. Utilize three methods to assist individuals who struggle with dissociation to become more grounded;
  3. Describe the neuroimaging pattern that characterizes dissociative reactions to complex trauma;
  4. Discuss how the findings of the TOP DD Network program can inform clinical work with dissociative patients;
  5. Describe several risk factors that contribute to unsafe urges and behavior among clients;
  6. Utilize three methods to assist individuals who struggle with urges to be unsafe stabilize their safety.


Bethany Brand, Ph.D. is the Martha A. Mitten Professor at Towson University and she specializes in the assessment and treatment of trauma-related disorders She has over 25 years of clinical and research experience. Dr. Brand has been honored with numerous research, teaching and clinical awards and served on several national task forces that developed guidelines for the assessment and treatment of trauma-related disorders. Dr. Brand is the Principal Investigator on a series of international treatment studies of patients with dissociative disorders as well as studies that are developing methods for distinguishing dissociative disorders from other conditions including malingering.