Complex Trauma: Interventions

Ocean ViewA history of multiple, often chronic, traumatic events in people’s lifespan can create a number of difficulties. Events such as abuse, violence, or abandonment cause feelings of rage, fear, shame, defeat, and withdrawal; they are reactions to years filled with adverse and inhumane treatment by parents, family members, caregivers, or others who impact these people’s lives.

Working with a clinical counsellor can help individuals experiencing the effect of complex trauma, such as difficulty managing emotions, dissociation, confusion, attachment and relationships issues, mind-body health issues. Long term therapy is often needed to work through complex trauma. 

Malchiodi (2012), a leading expert in trauma, suggests the followings clinical interventions:

1.  Establish a sense of safety. This includes helping people establish both an internal sense of safety and identification and support for safety within their homes, neighborhoods, and communities.
2.  Regulate affect. Help people understand that what has happened is “not their fault,” and assist them in learning methods to regulate and moderate arousal [limbic system] with the long-term goal of restoring emotional equilibrium.
3.  Reestablish attachment. Chronic, complex trauma disrupts basic trust because it is often caused by dysfunctional or abusive interpersonal relationships; our goal as helping professionals is to help people reestablish attachment with positive adult role models and to learn how to empathize and productively interact with peers.
4.  Enhance the brain’s executive functions. Serious and repetitive trauma impacts cognition, disrupting cortical functioning; our goal is to help people effectively engage attention, comprehension, and problem-solving skills to allow for the experiences of mastery, self-esteem, and self-efficacy.
5.  Reframe and integrate traumatic experiences. Chronic, complex developmental trauma cannot be erased from memory; however, with our help children can learn to how to manage their reactions, enhance adaptive coping skills, and cultivate present-oriented responses to current stresses. Our ultimate goal in intervention is to help these people transform, incorporate, resolve, repair, and construct meaningful lives, post-treatment.

This clinical interventions can assist clients regaining a sense of balance and well-being over time, as well as connecting them with the lost inspiration and creativity in their lives.


Malchiodi, C. (March 2012). Part One: Developmental Trauma. Retrieved from

© Maria Stella, PhD. All Rights Reserved.

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