Trauma Specialist Program

Connected Self

Healing & Growing from Within

"Trauma cannot be integrated as part of the ordinary memory system and lies on as an isolated piece of the past that keeps coming back."

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk

It is important that individuals who have experienced trauma receive appropriate services based on evidence-based practices to support their healing. As Beau Taplin said, “perhaps the Butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness and still become something Beautiful.”

Connected Self has a long and proven track record in providing specialist attachment and trauma-focused therapy to children, youths and adults who have experienced adverse childhood experiences, abuse, divorce, abandonment, medical trauma or traumatic grief. Our clinicians comprise of a highly skilled team of psychologists, art psychotherapists and occupational therapists and counsellors, who have additional training in dyadic (parent-child) and/or trauma focused approaches to therapy.

As a team, we specialize in providing trauma assessment and intervention for children and youth (3 to 18 years old) and adults, to support them in coping with the after-effects of traumatic experiences. We offer:

  • Specialist recovery-focused therapy for children/young people aged 5-18 years who have experienced sexual abuse or a traumatic bereavement. Connected Self’s clinical service includes providing psychotherapy including work with the whole family.
  • Children aged 4-11 who have experienced one or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)* and who are experiencing trauma symptoms or family difficulties. These families can now receive therapy.
  • Adults who have experienced spousal violence and or Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Connected Self also works closely with psychiatrists, doctors, allied health professionals and schools to minimise trauma-related distress and symptoms among children, adults and their families.

Clinic-based Trauma Services

  • Screening of traumatic stress symptoms in children, youths and adults who are referred after a traumatic experience
  • Psycho-emotional assessment of psychological impact following traumatic experiences
  • Evidence-based treatment for psycho-emotional difficulties arising after trauma
  • Trauma based clinical assessments
  • Assessment of Developmental Trauma through story stems using the DMM model (i.e., use of evidenced based tools such as Child Attachment and Play Assessment (CAPA) and the Marschak Interaction Method (MIM))
  • Individual Psychotherapy is normally a creative therapeutic approach, using a range of techniques to support children and young people.
  • Dyadic (Parent-child) therapy aims to build on positive interactions to strengthen attachment relationships.
  • Family Therapy to address the impact of trauma and difficulties in family relationships.
  • Trauma-focused therapy involves using additional therapies to help us process traumatic memories as part of the overall work. In our service, this is normally additional therapies such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Sensory Motor Arousal Regulation Treatment (SMART), Attachment, Regulation and Competency (ARC) Framework, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Sensory Attachment Intervention (SAI) and Yoga Based Psychotherapy for Trauma.
  • Therapeutic Parenting: either with individuals or groups of parents. Therapeutic parenting aims to help support and equip parents of children who have experienced trauma. Therapeutic parenting works with an understanding of attachment and trauma in mind.
  • Specialist consultation to support key professionals and the system around the child as they plan for your child’s care.
  • Use of body based therapies to improve regulation, increase cognitive engagement and improve social connections.

Dr Steve Farnfield, Consultant to Connected Self

Dr. Farnfield has over 40 years of experience working with children and families in a wide range of settings. He has served as university senior lecturer for many years. He is an expert in attachment assessments, covering infancy through to adulthood and a founder member of IASA.

The Child Attachment and Play Assessment (CAPA) was devised by Dr Steve Farnfield who founded the MSc Attachment Studies programme at the University of Roehampton and accademic position with University of Reading U.K., and with Paul Holmes co-edited the 3 volume Routledge Handbooks of Attachment. For much of his career he combined practice with troubled families.

He is also a licensed trainer for a wide range of DMM assessment procedures.The CAPA analysis combines Crittenden’s Dynamic Maturational Model of attachment and adaptation (DMM) with Winnicott’s ‘playing and reality’ and ‘potential space’ to assess attachment strategy, mentalising, unresolved loss, and trauma together with the DMM modifiers.

The Psych Connect Trauma Team consults with Dr. Farnfield to ensure the highest quality of care is provided to our clients.

Trauma Specialist Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Following acceptance of a referral, we offer an initial clinical trauma assessment to the referred client or family. Following assessment, we may make an offer of direct therapy to the individual or family (with their agreement) and/ or offer specialist consultation to our professional system.

A traumatic event occurs when an individual experiences actual or perceived threat to their life, body (such as physical injury, spousal violence, sexual harm, medical procedures ) or a break in their personal integrity.

These events can overwhelm our capacity to cope and also affect our daily routines or relationships.

Family members may also be affected when they witness or learn that their loved ones others, have become victims of traumatic events.

When a child experiences a traumatic event the overstimulation of their autonomic nervous system can trigger permanent changes in the development of their neural pathways and cause chronic dysregulation of their endocrine systems. This alters the epigenetic profile of their DNA. The experience of trauma also impacts brain development.

Following a traumatic event, children not only develop negative associations for things they experience at the time of the trauma, but their bodies also portray "snapshots" of their unsuccessful attempt to defend their sense of self and integrity.

The "past" becomes the "present" and the "future" is frozen in time. The traumatic piece cannot be integrated and exists as an isolated piece of the past that is being relieved again and again. There is no “future". The traumatic experience becomes highly activated and an incomplete biological response frozen in time.

Experts have used the term “wired for danger” to describe the brains of individuals who have experienced trauma. Allowing children to experience traumatic stress and not providing intervention, perpetuates this cycle of abuse twofold, since it becomes ingrained in their epigenetics. This will be passed down through generations in their DNA and in the way they parent their future children (Kiyimba, 2016).

Children may experience strong feelings such as fear, sadness, anger, grief and guilt. They may also experience other distress reactions, including difficulties in sleeping and/or concentrating, hypervigilance and bodily symptoms like muscle aches or headaches.

Although grief and loss are a universal experience, ‘traumatic grief’ usually occurs in response to the types of losses defined above and is a way of describing thoughts, feelings and reactions which are more traumatic (trauma symptoms) than the universal experience of mourning following a death.

It is important to acknowledge that these reactions are all typical responses to an abnormal situation and the intensity of such reactions would subside after about 3-4 weeks.

If your child/you continue to experience significant distress reactions four weeks after the event, it is recommended to speak to a healthcare professional regarding these concerns.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events experienced in the first 18 years of life.

ACEs are categorized into three groups: abuse, neglect, and household challenges. Each category is further divided into multiple subcategories.

Abuse

  • Emotional abuse: A parent, stepparent, or adult living in your home swore at you, insulted you, put you down, or acted in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt.
  • Physical abuse: A parent, stepparent, or adult living in your home pushed, grabbed, slapped, threw something at you, or hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured.
  • Sexual abuse: An adult, relative, family friend, or stranger who was at least 5 years older than you ever touched or fondled your body in a sexual way, made you touch his/her body in a sexual way, attempted to have any type of sexual intercourse with you.

Household Challenges

  • Mother treated violently: Your mother or stepmother was pushed, grabbed, slapped, had something thrown at her, kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, hit with something hard, repeatedly hit for over at least a few minutes, or ever threatened or hurt by a knife or gun by your father (or stepfather) or mother’s boyfriend.
  • Substance abuse in the household: A household member was a problem drinker or alcoholic or a household member used street drugs.
  • Mental illness in the household: A household member was depressed or mentally ill or a household member attempted suicide.
  • Parental separation or divorce: Your parents were ever separated or divorced.
  • Incarcerated household member: A household member went to prison.

Neglect

  • Emotional neglect: Someone in your family never or rarely helped you feel important or special, you never or rarely felt loved, people in your family never or rarely looked out for each other and felt close to each other, or your family was never or rarely a source of strength and support.
  • Physical neglect: There was never or rarely someone to take care of you, protect you, or take you to the doctor if you needed it2, you didn’t have enough to eat, your parents were too drunk or too high to take care of you, or you had to wear dirty clothes.

Along with familial violence, abuse or neglect, and parental separation or death, any event that undermines a child’s sense of bonding, safety, and security is defined as an ACE.

Experiencing ACEs during childhood can disrupt a child’s development and impact their social, emotional, and cognitive well-being well into adulthood.

ACEs are linked to:

  • risk taking behaviors
  • substance use problems
  • chronic health issues
  • mental illness
  • early death

Researchers found that the more ACEs adults reported from their childhoods, the worse their physical and mental health outcomes (e.g., heart disease, substance misuse, depression). The term ACEs has been adopted to describe varying lists of adversities.

Trauma is one possible outcome of exposure to adversity. Trauma occurs when a person perceives an event or set of circumstances as extremely frightening, harmful, or threatening—either emotionally, physically, or both. With trauma, a child’s experience of strong negative emotions (e.g., terror or helplessness) and physiological symptoms (e.g., rapid heartbeat, bedwetting, stomach aches) may develop soon afterward and continue well beyond their initial exposure. Certain types of childhood adversity are especially likely to cause trauma reactions in children, such as the sudden loss of a family member, a natural disaster, a serious car accident, or school violence. Other childhood adversities (e.g., parental separation or divorce) tend to be associated with more variability in children’s reactions and may or may not be experienced by a child as trauma.

Toxic stress can occur when a child experiences adversity that is extreme, long-lasting, and severe (e.g., chronic neglect, domestic violence, severe economic hardship) without adequate support from a caregiving adult. Specifically, childhood adversities, including ACEs, can over-activate the child’s stress response system, wearing down the body and brain over time. This overactivation is referred to as toxic stress and is the primary way in which adversity damages a child’s development and well-being. The extent to which a child’s stress response to adversity becomes toxic and leads to serious health and mental health problems in adulthood also depends on the child’s biological makeup (e.g., genetic vulnerabilities, prior experiences that have damaged the stress response system or limited healthy gene expression) and the characteristics of the adverse events or conditions (e.g., intensity, duration, whether a caregiver caused the child harm).

A traumatic bereavement is one normally associated with sudden, unexpected or traumatic death. An individual or family could be considered to have experienced a traumatic bereavement if they have experienced: loss through suicide or other traumatic /violent event; if they have been involved in the care of a severely ill close family member who passed away from their illness

In addition, the process of grieving can become more complicated – or traumatic – if there were existing difficulties in attachment or when presented with clinical history of trauma .

Although grief and loss are a universal experience, ‘traumatic grief’ usually occurs in response to the types of losses defined above and is a way of describing thoughts, feelings and reactions which are more traumatic (trauma symptoms) than the universal experience of mourning following a death.

The increased understanding that childhood adversity, including ACEs, can cause trauma and toxic stress—and, in turn, have a lasting impact on children’s physical and mental health—presents an important opportunity to turn this awareness into action. For example, caregivers and other practitioners can learn about and implement trauma-informed care in child and family service systems.

By being part of a trauma informed process or intervention, it also helps the child to process and integrate the traumatic event and emotions associated with the event. It provides the child a safe space to learn self-regulation skills, provides a sense of connectedness, allows the child to find new found meaning and purpose in life.