On this week’s episode of EBT, Bridger and Caleb talk through Perez & Sundheims’ 2015 article on treating early relational trauma.

Psychoanalytic and Attachment Theory 

  • Because of a baby’s helplessness, 
  • They have to implement strategies to mitigate it.
  • Additionally, if the attachment figure or environment is not reliable this creates anxiety and withdrawal in the infant
  • And is a threat to development
  • Because the infant depends on the attachment figure for survival.
  • Importantly, knowing this can help with understanding older adults’ anxieties
  • Because they can be connected back to this early relational trauma 
  • And the impact of the environment on the infant’s ability to regulate.
  • Additionally, this can lead to development favoring fear and arousal
  • Instead of regulation and rest.
  • Early relational life has a lot of mental and physical health implications. 

Attachment Relationship and its Regulatory Function 

  • Attunement in relationships aids in co-regulation.
  • Specifically, the absence of co-regulation leads to over-activation of fear.
  • When children are dysregulated, they look to their caregiver 
  • And if this process is threatened, it can affect development. 
  • Additionally, adult brains use templates created in childhood to identify threats in their environment.
  • Importantly, the lack of caregiver regulation leads to long-term changes in stress responses.
  • Our attachment relationships in life are crucial. 

Brain Development & Early Relational Trauma

  • Without secure attachment and co-regulation the moderating of stress responses is affected 
  • And the neural architecture of the brain will shift. 
  • Importantly, this can affect you beyond childhood
  • Because you build upon this architecture. 
  • Caleb shares a client example ( 29:28) 
  • “The growth of the brain is largely experience dependent” (31:56)
  • Additionally, relationship synchronization is needed for an immature brain to mature. 
  • Children that experienced early relational trauma are unable to self-regulate negative states.

Neurobiological Descriptions of Early Relational Trauma 

  • The response to early relational trauma is perpetuated by physiological processes
  • And this further shapes development. 
  • Specifically, living in fear distorts sensory perception 
  • Because of atypical development in the right brain.
  • Bridger shares a metaphor (39:24)
  • Importantly, be subjective in therapy, not objective 
  • Because your systems are responsive to the relationship.

Shattered Attachment and Multiple Facets of Loss

  • “Attachment strategies are filled with affective experience”
  • Attachment theories have shifted to more regulation-oriented theories.
  • Importantly, partner and process with the person experiencing trauma.
  • Further, attune to the strategies of a child responding to loss
  • Don’t dismiss them.
  • “Defensive processes are a regular constituent of loss and mourning…”(48:47)
  • Additionally, protesting, despairing, and detaching are normal experiences your body uses to mitigate threat.
  • And the process of grieving is important. 
  • When a child loses a caregiver, they lose who they turned to for regulation.

Case Example (53:26)

Clinical Impressions

  • “If we are going to treat trauma well, we need to be open to the natural neurobiological processes that find healing” (1:14:38)
  • Importantly, providing that safe space to process those natural mechanisms. 
  • And trying to understand why something was traumatic.
  • Additionally, you don’t want the strategies from trauma to become ingrained. 
  • You want transformative change. 

Season 2 Articles


Did you know?  After full completion of Beyond Healing Institute’s Somatic Integration and Processing training, each participant can receive 21 NBCC hours. 

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Executive Directors: Jennifer and Ryan Savage, Melissa Bentinnedi, Bridger Falkenstein
Hosts: Bridger Falkenstein, Caleb Boston, and  Melissa Benintendi
Filmographer: Tyler Wassam
Podcast Editor: Jamie Eggert
Original Music Composers: Bridger Falkenstein and Caleb Boston
Show Notes: Jamie Eggert & Jordan Murray