Treatment of Complex Trauma A Sequenced, Relationship-Based Approac


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This insightful guide provides a pragmatic roadmap for treating adult survivors of complex psychological trauma. Christine Courtois and Julian Ford present their effective, research-based approach for helping clients move through three clearly defined phases of posttraumatic recovery. Two detailed case examples run throughout the book, illustrating how to plan and implement strengths-based interventions that use a secure therapeutic alliance as a catalyst for change. Essential topics include managing crises, treating severe affect dysregulation and dissociation, and therapist self-care. The companion website offers downloadable reflection questions for clinicians and extensive listings of professional and self-help resources. A new preface in the paperback and e-book editions addresses key scientific advances.


  • Foreword by John Briere
  • I. Overview of Complex Traumatic Stressors and Sequelae
  • 1. Complex Trauma and Traumatic Stress Reactions
  • 2. Complex Traumatic Stress Reactions and Disorders
  • II. Treatment of Complex Traumatic Stress Reactions and Disorders
  • 3. Preparing for Treatment of Complex Trauma
  • 4. Treatment Goals and Assessment
  • 5. Phase 1: Safety, Stabilization, and Engagement—Measured in Skills, Not Time
  • 6. Phases 2 and 3: Trauma Memory, Emotion Processing, and Application to the Present and Future
  • 7. Systemic Therapy across Phases: Group, Couple, and Family Modalities
  • III. Advanced Treatment Considerations and Relational Issues
  • 8. Into the Breach: Voids, Absences, and the Posttraumatic/Dissociative Relational Field
  • 9. Walking the Walk: The Therapeutic Relationship
  • 10. Transference and Countertransference in Complex Trauma Treatment
  • Postscript
  • References
  • Index

Author Bio:

Christine A. Courtois, PhD, ABPP, a board-certified counselling psychologist, is retired from private practice in Washington, DC, and is a consultant/trainer on topics on trauma psychology and treatment. She cofounded and then served for 16 years as Clinical and Training Director of The CENTER: Posttraumatic Disorders Program, in Washington, DC. Dr. Courtois was chair of the Clinical Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Adults for the American Psychological Association (APA), released in 2017, and for guidelines on the treatment of complex trauma for several professional organizations. She has published a number of books, numerous book chapters and articles on trauma-related topics. Dr. Courtois is past president of APA Division 56 (Trauma Psychology) and past founding Associate Editor of the Division’s journal, Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. She served two terms on the Board of Directors of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS). She has received the Award for Distinguished Contributions to Independent Practice from the APA, the Sarah Haley Award for Clinical Excellence from ISTSS, and, most recently, the Award for Distinguished Service and Contributions to the Profession of Psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology.

Julian D. Ford, PhD, ABPP, a clinical psychologist, is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, where he is Director of the Center for Trauma Recovery and Juvenile Justice and the Center for the Treatment of Developmental Trauma Disorders. He has served as President of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, and is Associate Editor of the Journal of Trauma and Dissociation and European Journal of Psychotraumatology. Dr. Ford has published more than 250 articles and book chapters. He is co-editor of Treating Complex Traumatic Stress Disorders in Adults, Second Edition, and Treating Complex Traumatic Stress Disorders in Children and Adolescents, and co-author of Treatment of Complex Trauma: A Sequenced, Relationship-Based Approach. His research focuses on developmental trauma disorder and the Trauma Affect Regulation: Guide for Education and Therapy (TARGET) therapeutic intervention.


“Courtois and Ford have demonstrated that they are masters of their subject and are masterful in communicating about the treatment of a very difficult patient population and have contributed a masterpiece in their book….This book is not only essential reading for therapists who want to take on the challenge of treating patients with complex trauma but also an excellent source for any professional who engages in psychotherapy. The reader comes away with not only important tools in establishing a meaningful relationship with patients but also a sense of the gratification that results from treating patients and being a partner in their growth and development.” – Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease

Winner (Second Place)—American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award, Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing Category