Disrupted Early Attachments and Chronic Pain – A Holistic Overview for Psychotherapists
Saturday 16 May 2020 - London
With Dr Frances Sommer Anderson, Georgie Oldfield and 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.READ MORE...
As a psychoanalyst working relationally, Frances Sommer Anderson will talk about the role of early trauma in this process, elaborating the view that interpersonal trauma takes place within the intersubjective field and how this, in turn, can trigger a cascade of bodily dysfunctions in adulthood. She will demonstrate ways of bringing other techniques into the therapy, including Somatic Experiencing™️ in order to make shifts beyond the reach of the analytic frame. Our other two presenters work directly with the body: Georgie Oldfield, a physiotherapist, and musculoskeletal physician Nick Straiton, will corroborate Frances’ approach by demonstrating the emotional component of physical pain and the need to work on unprocessed emotions in a safe space to recover.
The interweaving of a psychoanalytic stance, the contemporary influence of current thinkers in the field of trauma, and the work of body-based practitioners will give attendees a thorough and holistic grounding in the emotional roots of chronic pain, and how to work with what may lie beneath to enable a client to fully recover and flourish.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.