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Engaging Traumatized Clients who Avoid Attachment, Closeness & Painful Feel...

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BC Hydro Theatre

The University of British Columbia

Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability 2260 West Mall, Room 2331

Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4


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Engaging Traumatized Clients who Avoid Attachment, Closeness & Painful Feelings

A one-day training workshop at Vancouver with Dr Robert T. Muller

Vancouver, 6 November 2017, Monday

Note: workshop registrations include a complimentary copy of Dr Muller’s award-winning book: ‘Trauma & the Avoidant Client’ (winner of the 2011 ISSTD award for the year’s best written work on Trauma)

This practical workshop, led by Dr Robert T. Muller – a leading expert on therapy for Trauma and globally acclaimed author of the psychotherapy bestseller: ‘Trauma & the Avoidant Client, Attachment-Based Strategies for Healing’ – is aimed at building our therapeutic understanding of clinical work with avoidant clients.

While there has been considerable research into treatment of trauma, surprisingly little work has focused on specific intervention strategies to help traumatised clients who are avoidant of attachment. Many clients cope with traumatic intra-familial experiences by minimising painful feelings, by becoming emotionally distant, and by devaluing interpersonal closeness, intimacy and feelings of vulnerability. With individuals who adopt a self-protective help-rejecting stance, psychotherapy can prove extremely challenging for client and therapist alike.

Drawing upon attachment theory and research, and upon a wealth of clinical experience, Dr Muller explains how, as psychotherapists, psychologists, counsellors and psychiatrists, we can work with such hard-to-treat clients, how we can find points of entry and ways in which we can make contact. Using a relational, psychodynamic approach, the workshop discusses and demonstrates strategies for developing the therapeutic relationship, such that we can assist the client regain a sense of trust in others. We explore therapeutic techniques through which the client is encouraged to take interpersonal risks, to mourn losses, and to face vulnerabilities. Uniquely, Dr Muller illustrates how the frustrating challenges that arise in the therapeutic relationship can in fact be used as a productive force in the therapeutic process.

Throughout the workshop, Theory is complemented by case examples and segments from Dr Muller’s own therapeutic sessions. The workshop focusses on clinical skills that are directly applicable in our work as therapists.

Course aims

The course aims to provide an integrative training approach that enables practitioners using different therapeutic modalities to integrate the relevant elements of Attachment Theory and Research with their existing skills, which they can then apply to their work, so as to:

  • recognise characteristics of avoidant attachment
  • productively use trauma-related symptoms
  • maximise client engagement throughout the process
  • work with affect
  • recognise and utilise client transference
  • plan for the termination phase of therapy

About the speaker

Robert T. Muller, Ph.D., C.Psych. completed his clinical fellowship at Harvard University, was on faculty at the University of Massachusetts, and is currently Professor of Clinical Psychology at York University in Toronto. Throughout his professional career, Dr Muller has been practicing, teaching, and supervising in the areas of trauma, attachment, and psychotherapy. He was recently honoured as a Fellow of the International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation (ISSTD) for his work on trauma treatment. His psychotherapy bestseller, Trauma & the Avoidant Client, has had multiple translations and printings, and won the 2011 ISSTD award for the year’s best written work on trauma. A lead investigator on several multi-site programs for treating interpersonal trauma, Dr Muller has lectured internationally, and has been the keynote speaker at mental health conferences in New Zealand and Canada. He founded an online magazine, The Trauma & Mental Health Report, which is visited by over 100,000 readers each year. With over 20 years in the field, he practices in downtown Toronto.

Further details about Dr Muller’s book can be found at these links:

Who is the course suitable for?

The course is suitable for all counsellors, psychotherapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, health and social care professionals practising in health, education and social care settings and in private practice, and who have a core professional training. It is suitable for therapists working in all modalities.


9:00AM: Registration

9:30AM: Module 1: Making sense of avoidant attachment

In the first module, we consider the characteristics of avoidant attachment and look at:

  • How avoidant clients can be mistrustful of attachment and intimacy based in a lifelong need for self-protection
  • The importance of the therapeutic alliance when the client is attempting to minimise traumatic experiences through excessive independence and self-reliance
  • What our overarching therapeutic stance should be so we can gently challenge these defensive patterns

Module 2: Strategies for engagement

This module builds on the theoretical discussions of the previous session and we consider:

  • How we can use trauma-related symptoms as motivators
  • How we can help the client clarify motivation for therapy, and therefore circumvent early drop-out
  • How to ask motivating questions and how to use client ambivalence as a motivator
  • Making contact”, dealing with client “distancing manoeuvres” and addressing therapy relationship issues “in the moment

Module 3: Working with Affect

We consider the linkages between Affect & Avoidant attachment through role plays to consider:

  • As therapists, how can we utilise autobiographical memory
  • How we can pursue “hot” emotional themes
  • How to stay with the affect

In this module, we also observe a complete therapy session on video to consolidate our learnings so far. This is followed by group discussion.

Module 4: Ending Therapy for the Avoidant Client

The last module of the training consolidates our clinical learnings and helps us comprehend:

  • How we can make the ending collaborative
  • the “good” good-bye
  • How to minimize early drop-out considering:
    • § The client’s fear of ending & loss
    • § The therapist’s fear of ending & loss

5:00PM: Close

© nscience, 2017 / 18

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BC Hydro Theatre

The University of British Columbia

Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability 2260 West Mall, Room 2331

Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4


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