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Kinley, J.L. Reyno, S.M. (2019). The Price of Needing to Belong: Neurobiology of Working through Attachment Trauma. Psychodyn. Psych., 47(1):39-51.

(2019). Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 47(1):39-51

The Price of Needing to Belong: Neurobiology of Working through Attachment Trauma

Jacqueline L. Kinley, M.D., FRCPC, Diplomat ABPN and Sandra M. Reyno

Belonging is fundamental to health and well-being. Complex relational trauma disrupts attachments, negatively impacting developing neurobiology and has significant implications for attachment behaviors, mental health, and treatment planning. We have developed a dynamic relational (DR) model of psychotherapy that aims to restore a healthy sense of belonging, targeting levels of activation and integration of large scale neural networks in the service of increasing the emotional capacities (attunement, processing, regulation, and expression) required to work through attachment trauma and establish healthy relationships. Our DR model provides an organizing framework through which to understand both the phenomenology observed in complex trauma and the mechanisms of therapeutic change. Our approach informs the weighting and timing of interventions to actively address capacity deficits, ego-syntonic symptoms, and unconscious resistance. The implications of this model also relate to the pathogenesis of mental disorder, and suggest prevention and early intervention efforts focus on modulation of subcortical (autonomic) responses and the encouragement of balanced cortical integration to enhance cognitive flexibility/psychological resilience. Ultimately, interventions based on our systematic model may modulate the genetic diathesis and comorbidities of relational trauma and increase psychological resilience.

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