Find out more about the Conference Speakers and Presentations.

The Agenda

Sunday, 2 August

Conversation Hour with Dan Hughes and Jon Baylin

Conversation Hour with Steve Porges and Deb Dana

Opening Reception

Monday, 3 August

Facilitating Integration of an Emerging Self in Therapy and in Therapeutic Care

When children have experienced relational trauma within their family, their sense of self is likely to be permeated with shame and fear. How else could they make sense of their world other than concluding that they are bad and unlovable and adults bring terror, not safety. Even worse, their sense of self is likely to be fragmented, has gaps, tends to disintegrate from one event to the next. With such a negative and fragile sense of self, it is no wonder that these children are very reluctant to become open and engaged with a new relational world, no matter how affirming and accepting that world is.

We will be presenting how their brains have developed to avoid new relationships and new learning and how deficiencies in their neurological development make it very difficult for them to trust enough to take advantage of relationships being offered by the various professionals and caregivers in their lives. Mistrust leads them to reject those who want to care for them, and when these rejections are intense and frequent, the best caregivers and professionals are at risk of resorting to ‘doing their job’ without the heart needed to make a difference.

We will present the needed psychological and neurological experiences that will enable these children to begin to feel safe, to accept comfort, to awaken to new possibilities of engagement and relating, while revising their sense of self and their sense of other. This is a slow process, a process of inviting reciprocal engagements that reduce the child’s defensiveness and invite him to become engaged, moment to moment, in ways that enable him to discover new meanings—meanings of comfort and joy, healing and thriving.

Along with describing an overview of the psychological and neurological theory and research, the presenters will include stories and videos to facilitate a deeper experience of this process.

Masterclass with Tina Champagne

Details to be confirmed.

Masterclass with Bethany Brand

Details to be confirmed.

Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation: A Polyvagal Guide to Safety and Connection

The autonomic nervous system is the foundation for our lived experience. Guided by Polyvagal Theory, we have a deep appreciation of the ways experience impacts the nervous system and of the processes that lead to healing. A polyvagal guided approach offers strategies to help clients identify and interrupt their familiar patterns of protection and skills to find, and savor, experiences of safety. In this workshop you’ll learn the language of the nervous system as you map your own autonomic pathways, explore practices to reliably return to regulation, and ways to become a regulating resource for others.

The lived body: Exploring the transformation from complex trauma to complex disease.

This master class will be co-facilitated by Professor Anna Luise Kirkengen and Dr Johanna Lynch. Both are General Practitioners who became researchers in response to the testimonies of traumatic experiences they were encountering in their clinical work. Both clinician researchers have developed an expertise in complex trauma’s impact on the body.

This master class, anchored in authentic sickness histories (shared with permission) and in current neuroscience, will focus on the intersection of lifetime experience and illness. Participants will be asked to interact as we think together about the central questions: How does life experience inform the whole person’s body? How is complex trauma transformed into complex disease presentations?

Along the way, we will discuss the pathways of lived violations as these are inscribed into bodily physiology by means of inflammation, infection and tumour development. We will also consider the limitations of the current biomedical diagnostic approach, typically fragmenting a person’s sickness experience into multiple diagnoses – what the field currently conceptualises as ‘multi-morbidity’, and what almost consistently leads to poly-pharmacy, implying a range of potential threats to health. Overarching these central topics, this workshop will also consider the way that medical theories of causation may actually create barriers to seeing the impact of experience on health.

Come to this workshop ready to participate and learn together as we consider our approach to the person, their history and their body.

First Nations Ways of Healing Trauma and the Connections with Neuroscience - A Talking Circle

This masterclass is unique combination of leading First Nations practitioners and researchers from around the globe. It is the first time that such a line-up has been assembled. It will be chaired by Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson from Australia.

The speakers include: Helen Milroy (Australia), Cindy Blackstock (Canada), Gavin Morris (Australia), Alayne Hall (New Zealand), Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela (South Africa), Lewis Mehl-Madronna (USA).

In the morning, each speaker will present their insights about traditional cultural ways of healing from trauma. They will explore how their experience of working with First Nations individuals and communities contributes to a much larger narratives about pain, dispossession, colonization, loss, connection and transformation.

In the afternoon, the panel will form a Yarning Circle and reflect on the challenges facing First Nations children, families and communities around the world. This will be a participatory opportunity to collectively discuss and explore shared intent and purpose with delegates.

Tuesday, 4 August

Connecting Neuroscience and First Nations Ways of Healing Trauma – A Talking Ceremony

Judy Atkinson (Australia)
Steve Porges (USA)
Helen Milroy (Australia)
Ngaire Brown (Australia)
Cindy Blackstock (Canada)
Gavin Morris (Australia)
Alayne Hall (New Zealand)
Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela (South Africa)
Lewis Mehl-Madronna (USA)

Professor Emeritus Colwyn Trevarthen – Keynote

Details to be confirmed.

Professor Helen Milroy

Details to be confirmed.

Empowerment and Recovery for Trauma Survivors

Trauma destroys the social systems of care, protection, and meaning that support human life. The essential features of psychological trauma are disempowerment and disconnection from others. The recovery process, therefore, is based on empowerment of the survivor and restoration of relationships. This lecture will describe the principles upon which a collaborative therapeutic alliance may be established and outline a three-staged approach to the treatment of trauma survivors. The complementary roles of bio-behavioral treatments, individual psychotherapy, self-help, and social action will be discussed and illustrated with case examples.

The Famine of the Ancestors: A Fairy Tale of One Family’s Multigenerational Addictions as a Clinical Intervention in Dyadic Therapy.

“She’s dead!” the ten-year old child scowled, her dark eyes squeezed into little angry slits.
“My mother’s dead. She’s dead and your keeping it a secret from me.”
“Perhaps there can be more than one explanation,” I said.
“Well there’s not. She won’t see me cause she knows I’m bad. She knows I keep having to go away to those homes for bad kids.”

This talk will examine the therapeutic effects of telling the whole gory mess of one child’s real-life familial story of addiction and deliverance as a fairy tale.

Listening Through the Lens of Polyvagal Theory: Hearing the Embodied Story

The autonomic nervous system is at the heart of daily living powerfully shaping experiences of safety and influencing the capacity for connection. Polyvagal Theory offers an updated understanding of the autonomic circuits that underlie behaviors and beliefs and a roadmap to help clients move out of adaptive survival responses into the autonomically regulated state of safety that sets the stage for connection. In this talk we’ll explore ways to listen with curiosity and compassion to emerging autonomic states to answer the essential question, “What does my client’s nervous system need in this moment to find safety in connection?”

Bethany Brand

Details to be confirmed.

The Emerging Self: Psychological and Neurobiological Origins

In the first year of life, the child’s way of making sense of himself is tightly linked to what it feels like to be in the eyes, voice, and touch of his caregiver. The child exposed to poor care develops a mistrustful stance toward others rather than a sense of basic trust. The infant’s emergent sense of self is fragmented and poorly developed, rooted in feelings of being devalued rather than unconditionally loved and a source of delight to his parents. Recently neuroscientists have learned about a brain circuitry they call the Default Mode Network or DMN, a brain system dedicated to the process of self-relevant thinking. It appears that we may use the DMN for revising our sense of self through integrating experiences that carry “news of a difference”. These experiences, primarily of safe, synchronized, reciprocal relationships facilitate the development of a self that includes a core sense of unconditional worth and ‘loveability’.

Jon Baylin and Dan Hughes will present how attachment-focused therapy, with the consistently compassionate eyes and rhythmic voices of the parent and therapist the child will begin to form new stories of self. By first buffering the child’s defense system, the therapist and parent then help the child to feel safe enough to go into the DMN, to update old memories of self and others and ultimately revise the core story of “who I am” and what I’m worth. Within these stories, the child is able to integrate the many conflictual experiences of his past, reduce his pervasive sense of shame and fear, discover hope, develop resiliency, and begin to thrive.

Professor Judy Atkinson

Details to be confirmed.

The Comforted and the Uncomforted: a whole person approach to trauma.

Sometimes the language we use around pain can divide and separate us. Our ways of seeing can become fragmented as we try to hold the whole person in mind near their pain. Bringing the findings of her paradigm-changing doctoral research in whole person approaches to distress, Johanna Lynch will outline the new transdisciplinary language of ‘Sense of Safety’. This language, designed for use by clinicians in everyday practice (including general practice), and answers the questions: What do all humans need when we are distressed? How widely do we need to see to be able to understand and respond? and What patterns will help us to discern the next steps?

Spirit Bear's Guide to Reconciliation: Engaging children in social justice

In First Nations cultures, bears often represent family and so it is proper that Spirit Bear, a symbol of children’s reconciliation work, guides us through practical and uplifting strategies to engage children of all diversities in addressing contemporary injustices experienced by Indigenous children. Embedded in approaches that promote love, respect, critical thinking and child agency, we facilitate children’s direct access to elected and judicial decision makers in international and domestic fora. Examples of how children’s advocacy has had a direct impact on Canadian public policy are discussed.

The Neurosomatic Ways We Make Meaning About Our Sense of Self in the World

I believe we typically have misconstrued the nature of meaning and the processes making meaning in deep ways that limit our understanding of how humans function. Based on my research on infant development and how infants and young children make meaning of themselves in the world I will discuss meaning making as a neurosomatic biopsychological process in which different systems (epigenetic, genetic, autonomic, HPA) make different kinds of meaning. The talk will be illustrated with data and video tapes from my laboratory.

The Emergence of a Polyvagal-Informed Therapy: How Music and Voice Contribute to Healing Following Trauma

This presentation will focus on how Polyvagal Theory provides a plausible model to explain how and why music and prosodic vocalizations can help support physical and mental health and enhance function during the compromised states that follow trauma. The Polyvagal Theory provides a strategy to understand the neural mechanisms that enable listening to music and prosodic vocalizations to improve social engagement behaviors and to enhance the regulation of bodily and behavioral state. Polyvagal Theory enables the deconstruction of therapies that involve ‘listening’ into two components: 1) social engagement through the interpersonal relationship between therapist and client to promote feelings of safety and trust, and 2) the acoustic features of context (background sounds), vocalizations, and music that can trigger a physiological state supporting trust and feeling safe that can be used in the therapeutic setting. The Safe and Sound Protocol will be described as an example of an intervention that incorporates these two components.

Wednesday, 5 August

Opening Plenary

Emeritus Professor Colwyn Trevarthen (UK)

Opening Plenary

Professor Helen Milroy (Australia)

Concurrent Paper Presentations

Concurrent Paper Presentations

Facilitator: Janise Mitchell, Australian Childhood Foundation
Panel: Sue Carter, Helen Milroy, Christine Courtois, Bethany Brand, Marilyn Davillier, Deb Dana, Ruth Lanius, Cindy Blackstock, Tina Champagne, Johanna Lynch

Conference Networking and Poster Presentation Evening

Thursday, 6 August

Paul Gilbert (UK)

Compassion and its evolutionary origins
Compassion has its roots in the evolution of humanity. It serves functions and purpose of relationships and collective acts of meaning making. In the opening plenary, I explore how compassion is a deep and rich resource to our work and how it has been incorporated into standard psychotherapies within compassion focused therapy, especially as it relates to trauma.

Opening Plenary

Tracy Westerman (Australia)

The origins and development of compassion focused therapy.

How does compassion emerge from mammalian caring behaviour? How does mammalian caring behaviour become compassion when directed by new brain competencies? I will look at how compassion has to partly regulate other motivational system such as competitiveness. I will explore the role of attachment theory in understanding the functions and forms of the compassionate mind.

Empowerment and Recovery for Trauma Survivors

Trauma destroys the social systems of care, protection, and meaning that support human life. The essential features of psychological trauma are disempowerment and disconnection from others. The recovery process, therefore, is based on empowerment of the survivor and restoration of relationships. This lecture will describe the principles upon which a collaborative therapeutic alliance may be established and outline a three-staged approach to the treatment of trauma survivors. The complementary roles of bio-behavioral treatments, individual psychotherapy, self-help, and social action will be discussed and illustrated with case examples

The Messy Process of Engagement With Others and Its Positive Effects

I will argue that the meaning made by infants and adults is made up of multiple forms of meaning that are at best messily put together into a more or less coherent sense of themselves – what I call a state of consciousness. Moreover, that a primary way that meanings get made or changed is when individuals and others – parents and children, interventionist and client – bring together their individual states of consciousness to form dyadic states of consciousness. It will be illustrated with video tapes of infants engaging with objects and people, including the still-face in young infants and toddlers, and recent studies of stress and memory. This presentation aims to

– understand how infants are makers of meaning about themselves in relation to the world in typical and pathological settings;
– identify different levels of processes – emotions and physiology – that make meaning for the infant and child;
– understand how multiple meaning levels suggest changes in conceptualizations of transference and state of the patient and therapist.

“Attach Here”: Examining the role of attachment in the etiology and treatment of sexual behavior problems.

Neurodevelopmental research has highlighted the important role that early attachment experiences play in facilitating neurological and emotional health. Attachment disruptions can contribute to a range of developmental and behavioral difficulties including sexual behavior problems. This talk examines the central role that individual experiences of attachment relationships can play in understanding and treating sexual behavior problems. We will also discuss an approach to addressing attachment issues from a developmental context that seeks to enhance specific attachment related skills and promote resiliency.

Tracy Westerman

Details to be confirmed.

Traumatic Dissociation, Emotion Dysregulation, and the Loss of Self: Toward a Pathway of Recovery

Four dimensions of consciousness, time, thought, body, and emotion often show drastic alteration as the result of traumatic experience. Although these alterations in consciousness may be adaptive during traumatic events, when sustained following traumatic exposure, tremendous hardship may occur. How do we recognize such trauma-related alterations in consciousness? What predicts the occurrence of altered states of consciousness? Does the emergence of the self arise through the integrated experience of these four dimensions of consciousness? This lecture will describe how we can intervene effectively to overcome such altered states of consciousness and how are those changes are represented in mind, brain, and body.

Christine Courtois

Details to be confirmed.

Love as Embodied Medicine

Humans are on the threshold of novel insights into the origins of the magnificent obsession we call “love.” It is well established that healthy relationships can protect against disease and restore the body in the face of illness. Without positive relationships, especially in early life, humans fail to flourish, even if all of their basic biological needs are met. “Love lost” is one of the most powerful forms of stress and trauma. However, the mechanisms through which love protects and heals are only now becoming apparent. Love is most easily understood through the lens of our evolutionary past and in light of our contemporary physiology. At the epicenter of this story is a mammalian hormone, oxytocin, and an even more ancient molecule, known as vasopressin. These biochemical building blocks of love are not unique to humans and are shared with other highly social species. Through the study of social behavior in other mammals, we are also learning that the same physiology that lies behind the healing power of love, reduces inflammation, regulates the autonomic nervous system, the immune system, and even regulates the microbiome. Furthermore, the oxytocin-vasopressin system is regulated by experience across the lifespan, helping to explain the lasting physical consequences of both love and adversity. By examining the biology of social bonds and parenting, we are uncovering pathways that allow humans to experience and embody love.

Conference Closing Panel

Friday, 7 August

Using compassion to transform trauma.

This Masterclass will introduce people to the core concepts of compassion focused therapy including its origins. It will outline the evolutionary and physiological mechanisms of how compassion influences our bodies and brains work. We will then look at how we build a compassionate mind and how we can use our compassionate mind to address problems such as self-criticism and trauma.

Can We Teach These Kids to Dance: A Developmental Treatment Approach to Understanding and Treating Problematic Sexual Behavior in Youth

Children and adolescents with histories of trauma and attachment difficulties often present as the most challenging cases within the social service, mental health, and educational systems. Many of these youth have problems effectively meeting the demands of their daily lives, experiencing crisis in their homes, failure in their classrooms and disruptions in the community. Frequently, service providers and educators try to address the symptoms and behavioral issues these youth present without a context for understanding the kind of obstacles and triggers the child may be struggling to manage.

Research has shown a connection between early trauma experiences, attachment difficulties and disrupted neurological development in children. The effect of these early developmental experiences can have a significant impact on specific brain functions such as emotional and behavioral regulation, language processing, and adaptive decision-making. Given that many of the youth that we treat come from backgrounds with histories of abuse, neglect, and/or family dysfunction; this research is particularly pertinent to not only how we understand sexually problematic behavior in youth but also how we come to view treatment goals and interventions.

This training looks at the connections between adverse childhood events and problematic sexual behavior from a developmental perspective. We will present a treatment approach that seeks to integrate the brain based research on trauma and attachment and our understanding of “healthy” childhood development with an emphasis placed on interventions that help the child achieve developmental progress rather than those that “solely” look to find a means for stopping negative behavior.

Healing the Traumatized Self: Overcoming Challenges in Trauma Treatment

This workshop will discuss treatment challenges frequently encountered in trauma assessment and treatment from a clinical and neurobiological perspective. Practical strategies on how to deal with these difficulties will be outlined throughout the seminar through clinical case examples and role plays. Integrative therapeutic interventions aimed at restoring the self through resolution of key symptoms (dissociative flashbacks, dissociative voice hearing, out-of-body experiences, fragmentation of the self, self-mutilation, affect dysregulation, including high intensity emotional states, positive affect intolerance, and emotional numbing) will be described and demonstrated through role plays. Moreover, treatment approaches focusing on re-establishing interpersonal functioning and preventing the inter-generational transmission of trauma will be reviewed. Finally, effective means of preventing vicarious traumatization in therapists will be identified.

Masterclass with Tracy Westerman

Details to be confirmed.

Masterclass with Christine Courtois

Details to be confirmed.

Highlights from Past Conferences

A Highlight Reel of Quotes, Speakers and Entertainment

2018 Conference

The 2018 International Childhood Trauma Conference was the biggest held so far. Featuring 18 International speakers, more than 250 papers presented and 297 hours of programmed content.

2016 Conference

Building on the success of the 2014 event, the 2016 Conference was an exciting week showcasing the latest in the trauma field. You can watch the 2016 highlights here.

2014 Conference

Our first ever International Childhood Trauma Conference was held in 2014 with speakers and attendees from around the globe. You can watch the 2014 highlights here.

Contact Us

Conference Organisers
ICMS Pty Ltd
PO Box 170
Hawthorn VIC 3122
P: 1300 792 466

Organized with ICMS Pty Ltd