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Numbing the Pain: Making the Link between Childhood Trauma and Addictions

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Recent research and clinical evidence show that adverse childhood experiencessuch as childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, relational trauma and early childhood stress can significantly increase the risk of developing addictions. To manage the impact of abuse, trauma and emotional dysregulation, many survivors resort to substance misuse, disordered eating, gambling, workaholism, compulsive sex, exercise or unhealthy relationships; so as to self-medicate and to regulate their mood and emotions. However, despite growing evidence of the link between early childhood trauma and addictions; many alcohol, drug and addiction services tend to focus on harm minimisation and often do not have the resources to explore the underlying causes of addiction.

At this practical and unique seminar which would be relevant for psychotherapists, counsellors, psychologists, health practitioners, drug and alcohol workers, we look at early adverse childhood experiences, in particular childhood sexual abuse, complex and relational trauma, and their linkages with addiction. We specifically explore the nature of addictions within the context of attachment deficits and lack of emotional self-regulation.
The focus will be on enabling practitioners working with addictions and substance misuse to develop a deeper understanding of the link between addictions and complex trauma, so they can work more effectively with substance-dependent clients. To this end, the seminar will examine the barriers to disclosure such as shame and how practitioners can scaffold their therapeutic engagement with the principles of trauma-informed practice. Emphasis will be placed on psychoeducation and re-regulation of the nervous system through affect regulation and increasing the client’s window of tolerance.
The seminar will introduce a range of techniques such as stabilisation, grounding techniques, and mindfulness to restore control over dysregulated emotional states and reduce the need for external sources of regulation and self-medication. In addition, it will explore ways of facilitating disclosure of abuse experiences, how survivors who have a history of addiction can best be supported through the therapeutic relationship, how to liaise with specialist services and the range of referral pathways.
Through discussions, experiential exercises and case vignettes, we will consider:
  • The link between adverse childhood experiences and addiction
  • The link between attachment deficits and addiction 
  • Emotional Dysregulation and the nervous system
  • Addiction as self-medication to regulate emotions and mood states
  • The essential principles of a trauma informed practice
  • Re-regulation of the nervous system through stabilisation and grounding techniques
  • Developing affect regulation and an increased window of tolerance
  • Overcoming barriers to disclosure 
  • Offering a supportive therapeutic relationship to survivors who have a history of addiction


Location London
Category Talking Therapies
Details of Event
Start date 20 Sep 2019
Start time 10:00am
Venue Address Broadway House, Tothill Street, SW1H 9NQ
Amount £135
Organiser Nscience
Speaker Christiane Sanderson
CPD hours 5
Contact No. 020 7096 1722
Keywords Psychological, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Sexual Abuse, Therapeutic, Therapy, training, Trauma
Regions Greater London