Disrupted Early Attachments and Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain and Disrupted Early Attachments – A Holistic Overview for Psychotherapists

Spring 2021 TBC

With Dr Frances Sommer Anderson, Georgie Oldfield MCSP and Dr Nick Straiton


This multi-disciplinary conference will examine the early foundations of chronic pain and how to work with these conditions therapeutically. Our speakers include a psychologist/psychoanalyst, musculoskeletal physician and physiotherapist. Offering distinct but related understandings and techniques, drawing on relational, neurobiological and attachment studies, they will outline the aetiology of chronic pain in their adult patients, and how they work with this.




Registration and Coffee

Dr Frances Sommer Anderson
A 40-Year Relational Psychoanalytic Perspective on Treating Chronic Pain
Extensive research in the neurobiology of attachment and emotional and cognitive development has shown that interactions with caregivers from the beginning of life shape the architecture of our brain. These “dyadic interactions” lay down neural circuits, creating templates for being soothed when distressed. During these early formative years of physical, emotional and social development, we are dependent on the “inference,” “embodied empathy” and “vitalizing attunement” of our caregivers to label our subjective bodily sensations. The quality of these processes will be unconsciously activated when our bodies and our feelings are injured later in life. When we take our body to the physician who diagnoses somatic pain, the quality of the relationship and the education that the physician offers constitute the beginning of healing or the reinforcement of engrained circuits of fear and hopelessness that contribute to chronic pain. Today we will learn about the “hidden epidemic” of medical illness and disease stemming from early life adversities and how to work with these creatively.

Dr Nick Straiton
The Complexity of Pain Conditions and the Need for a Biopsychosocial Treatment
In this talk our speaker will illustrate how – through clinical experience as a musculoskeletal physician working with those in chronic pain in the NHS since 1996 – he has moved from an approach that perceives this as a purely physical problem to a complex and nuanced state needing a wide lens treatment. In the field of musculoskeletal medicine clinicians are typically asked to find and treat a specific organic cause for a patient’s chronic pain. After years of observing patients’ difficulty in reaching full health Nick has developed a new approach which recognises the complexity of such conditions and the frequent need for biopsychosocial strategies to support recovery. He considers unprocessed emotional factors to be a significant factor in the delayed recovery. Nick will speak from his experience of training in surgery, osteopathy, acupuncture and more recently Autogenic Therapy.


Georgie Oldfield MCSP
Chronic Pain: Empowering Individuals to Regain their Lives
As a physiotherapist Georgie Oldfield had always used physical therapies to treat chronic pain, aiming to address what was considered to be a physical problem/injury at the site of the painful area. Here she will demonstrate the growing pain science that shows the brain’s involvement in this, highlighting some of the evidence for links between past trauma, adverse childhood experiences and current lifestyle in triggering and perpetuating pain. She will explain how, as a physiotherapist, she is able to support and guide her patients as they follow her educational, self-empowering and emotionally focused approach and how this has enabled her and the health professionals she has trained boost the outcomes of clients who present with chronic pain. She will demonstrate how and why, addressing the underlying causes, rather than treating the pain itself, can often help so many people regain their lives.


Dr Nicholas Straiton
Experiential movement practice including Tai Chi Shibashi.

Dr Frances Sommer Anderson
Treating Chronic Pain – Experiencing the Pain Matrix
Somatic pain is a private, subjective experience comprised of sensations. Our reactions to these depends largely on the feelings evoked by the sensations and the interpretation and beliefs we have acquired about those sensations starting early in life. Contemporary research on the neurobiology of trauma, attachment and pain shows that pain memories contribute substantially to the development of chronic pain. Using her experiential learning methods, she will lead the audience in exercises that illustrate that pain is a complex subjective experience that can be understood within a relational psychoanalytic framework.


Georgie Oldfield MCSP
Tracking and sensation exercise.

Dr Frances Sommer Anderson
Treating Chronic Pain – Affect Recognition, Regulation and Memory Reconsolidation
Using clinical case examples, Frances will elucidate the challenging process of facilitating affect recognition and affect regulation in the beginning phase of treatment for people who are unable to experience appropriate feelings in response to their abuse. She will use clinical case material to illustrate how a traumatic memory can be effectively reconsolidated so that the person is able to develop a sense of agency when recalling something that was previously overwhelming. We will see how developing an empowered sense of self in relationship to a memory of abuse can relieve the pain that had become a distraction from the emotional pain of that abuse.




Handouts and lunch included

Confer member:
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Self-funded x 2:

Psychotherapy trainee:


Certificates of attendance for 6 hours will be provided at the event


The Tavistock Centre
120 Belsize Lane


09.30 Registration and coffee
10:00 Start
11:30 Coffee
12:45 Lunch
15:00 Tea
17:00 End


Regrettably, refunds cannot be given in any circumstances except as follows:

  • You cancel in writing to info@confer.uk.com 60 days before the first date of the event you have booked, in which case you will be entitled to a 100% refund.
  • You cancel in writing to info@confer.uk.com 30 days before the first date of the event you have booked, in which case you will be entitled to a 50% refund.

This does not apply to parts of an event such as a seminar within a series but only to a whole event or complete series. You may give your place to another person if you let us know that person's name at least 24 hours before the event begins.

We reserve the right to change a speaker at one of our conferences without offering a refund. However, if a solo presenter cancels we will offer a full refund OR transfer of your fee to another Confer event. If the entire event is cancelled we will offer you a full refund.

We reserve the right to change our prices at any time. Regrettably, discounts offered after you made your booking cannot be claimed or applied retrospectively.