Creating Connections Online


Dr. Sue Johnson

Plenary: Attachment - An integrating framework for 21st century, science based psychotherapy

Plenary Description

There are now over 1,000 different names for psychotherapy and over 400 specific models of intervention addressing an escalating number of disorders. This is problematic for the field of psychotherapy. A coherent body of developmental, social and personality science on attachment now offers therapists a map for self and relational system that cogently outlines both dysfunction and health – and how to lead clients from one to the other. This presentation will outline the strengths of this integrating framework as a general and specific in-session guide for individual, couple and family therapy, focusing on the map it offers for affect regulation, cognitive restructuring and behavior change. 


  • Outline the core features of attachment and how they challenge older approaches.
  • Describe the relevance of these features for the process of change across modalities.
  • Link the attachment framework to specific interventions in individual, couple and family therapy.
  • Describe the promise of attachment science for the future of psychotherapy. 


Workshop: Solving the Key Challenges of Couple Therapy with EFT

Workshop Description

Couple therapy can be a challenging modality for even the best of therapists. This workshop will address the key challenges and outline how they are addressed in EFT, a systematic, empirically tested model for on-target intervention. These challenges include, the creation and maintenance of a vibrant and secure alliance with both partners, dealing with partner hostility in highly escalated couples, de-escalating recurring negative cycles of interaction that perpetuate distress, shaping engagement in shut down partners, choreographing risk taking and crafting corrective emotional moments of secure bonding. This workshop will involve didactic presentation, the viewing of taped therapy sessions and an experiential exercise.


  • Understand the key goals and tasks of couple therapy and the key challenges for the therapist.
  • Outline how the EFT model fosters a secure base in therapy that shapes openness and responsiveness in clients.
  • Describe the core interventions in regulating extreme and over regulated emotion from an attachment perspective.
  • Set out how the EFT therapist helps partners de-escalate long standing patterns of negative interactions that perpetuate distress
  • Grasp how to effectively set up corrective in session bonding interactions in session that can transform self and relational system.  


Dr. Daniel J Siegel

Plenary: Attachment and Well-Being: How the Healthy Mind Emerges from Within our Relationships and Our Bodies

Plenary Description

The field of interpersonal neurobiology offers a synthesis of a wide range of sciences to reveal how the human mind can be seen as an embodied and relational, emergent self-organizing process that both emerges from and regulates energy and information flow. With this perspective, optimal self-organization can be viewed as arising from the linkage of differentiated elements of a system, a process called "integration" that can be cultivated in our relationships and in the body, including its brain. Impaired integration leads to chaos and rigidity, the two poles of impediments to well-being. Psychotherapy that evaluates the origins of this chaos and rigidity and then focuses interventions on cultivating integration can move beyond mental distress and both define and focus on creating states of optimal living of well-being.


  • Identify one way of defining the mind.
  • Outline two ways to strengthen the mind.
  • Name five aspects of the health mind.


Workshop: How Defining the Mind Can Empower Your Therapeutic Practice

Workshop Description

This workshop will examine the odd finding that the field of mental health has no definition of the mental or of the health. We not only train our students and organize our treatment strategies around the naming of disorders and the reduction of their symptom profiles, but we lack a definition of the mind or of a healthy mind that might perhaps help us focus on the creation of well-being in people’s lives. Have we lost our mind?

By diving deeply into the science of the mind, we come to see that we are not alone. Academic fields from anthropology to psychology, psychiatry to neuroscience, lack of definition of mind short of the statement that “the mind is brain activity”. Could that statement, made over one hundred and twenty-five years ago by William James, actually be the whole truth about our experience of feelings, thoughts, perceptions, beliefs, intentions, and memories? Is the subjective experience we sense within consciousness also “only neural firing” as is commonly stated? Neural firing involves the flow of energy and information, and when this is referring to the brain, it involves the flow of electrochemical energy in the head. But if our mental life “emerges” from this energy flow, where does energy flow end? Is it limited by the boundaries of the skull? If not, then perhaps the mind is best seen as fully embodied. And if the flow is not limited by the skin, perhaps the mind is not only embodied, but it is also relational—as we share energy and information flow with one another. By viewing the mind as not limited to neural activity in the brain, we come to see it as perhaps an emergent property of energy flow. One of those emergent properties is self-organization. What does self-organization do? It regulates that from which it arose. The proposal we’ll explore in this workshop is that defining the mind, in part, as the embodied and relational, self-organizing process that emerges from and regulates the flow of energy and information. Self-organization is optimized with a process of linking differentiated parts—something we call “integration.” With integration, a system moves in harmony; when not integrated, it moves toward chaos and/or rigidity. The implications of this proposal are supported by the findings that all symptoms of the various psychiatric disorders are examples of chaos, rigidity, or both; and so far, all studies of individuals across a wide range of disorders reveal impaired integration in their brains. Psychotherapy can be seen in this light as a process of integration. In this workshop, we’ll explore the profound implications of these views for understanding therapeutic change, the role of neuroplasticity to increase integration, and the practical ways in which evaluation, treatment planning, and interventions can be applied to transform therapeutic practice.

Workshop Objectives

  • Define the Mind
  • Describe how Integration is the fundamental basis of Mental Health


Dr. James Coan

Health, Well Being and the Social Regulation of Affect and Emotion


High quality social relationships help us live longer, happier, and healthier lives--facts that hold true, as far as anyone knows, regardless of geography or culture. Although links between relationships and health have been observed for decades (if not millennia), the mechanisms responsible for them remain speculative. For this talk, I'll first describe our work on one of these potential mechanisms: social regulation of the brain's response to perceived threat. Next, I'll offer a perspective--derived initially from our social regulation results--that integrates the study of social relationships with principles of behavioral ecology and cognitive psychology to propose that social relationships are construed by the brain as bioenergetic resources available to the self. Because of this, proximity to social resources economizes both current and predicted cognitive and bodily effort, a process that can diminish subjective stress, improve health, and even prolong life.


  • Learn why we think the predictive human brain is designed to assume access to social relationships characterized by shared goals, joint attention, interdependence, and trust.
  • Learn how the human brain may be designed to construe social relationships as bioenergetic resources by encoding close others as part of the self.
  • Learn how the assumption of proximity to social resources that expand and empower the self allows humans to, in effect, outsource everything from probabilistic risk, to threat vigilance, emotional responding, and a host of other demanding neural and behavioral activities.
  • Learn why sharing emotional challenges helps us create social economies of scale that regulate our propensity for engaging in neural and behavioral work, with implications for how we think, act and feel.
  • Learn how and why when social resources are absent, unreliable, or lost, our sense of self is diminished, along with both our objective and subjective efficacy.


Dr. Marco Iacoboni

Between Ourselves: Brain Mechanisms for Empathy


Human empathy and prosocial behavior take many forms. How do we make sense of all these different behavioral phenotypes? While it may be tempting to carefully describe these behaviors and classify them into a general taxonomy, this approach is not likely to generate deep insights into the mechanisms generating empathic behavior. I suggest that the different behavioral forms that empathy takes are generated by two continuously interacting processing streams in the brain. The first one is a bottom upprocessing stream that allows us to attune effortlessly to other people and that is supported by neural mechanisms of mirroring (mirror neurons). The second one is a top down processing stream that allows us to shape and control the bottom up information. Both processing streams need each other to function well. Without bottom up information, the top down control would have little data to process. Without the top down control, we would be swept away by bottom up information. I will present brain imaging and neuromodulation data that provide some initial understanding of the complex interactions between bottom up processing and top down control that generate empathic behaviors. I will also discuss brain imaging data suggesting gender differences in the balance between bottom up processing and top down control.


  • Learn the anatomy and physiology of the mirror neuron system
  • Learn about neural systems of cognitive control relevant to prosocial behavior
  • Learn how brain activity can be modulated non-invasively
  • Learn about gender differences in empathy


Dr. Jeffry A. Simpson

Partner Buffering of Attachment Insecurity


Insecurely attached people tend to have less happy and more unstable romantic relationships. However, the quality and long-term outcomes of their relationships depend on how their partners regulate them in certain social situations. Some partners find ways to regulate the emotional and behavioral reactions of insecurely attached individuals in distressing interactions, which can promote greater relationship satisfaction and security over time. In this talk, I will first discuss attachment theory and “interdependence dilemmas. Following this, I will explain how and why certain responses by partners during distressing interactions tend to assuage the cardinal concerns of insecure individuals in certain kinds of interdependence situations. I will then review several of our recent couple behavioral observation studies illustrating how partners can successfully regulate the reactions of anxiously and avoidantly attached individuals, yielding more constructive interactions and both happier and more stable relationships. I will conclude the talk by discussing how these effective partner regulation processes can create a more secure dyadic environment, which should help to improve relationships and attachment security across time. To give you a better idea of what I will cover, I have attached PDFs of two recent publications that outline our dyadic models of “partner buffering” with regard to anxious and avoidant attachment insecurity.


  • Understand the unique needs and motives of securely, anxiously, and avoidantly attached people
  • Clarify how and why certain types of “interdependence situations” can trigger concerns associated with the specific needs/motives of anxious and avoidant people
  • Identify what the romantic partners of anxious and avoidant people can do to buffer (assuage) the negative emotional, cognitive, and behavioral reactions of their insecure partner in these triggering situations
  • Discuss how therapists might be able to help the partners of insecure people enact buffering behaviors in a more effective way


Dr. David Barlow

Addressing the neurotic paradox: new approaches to treating emotional disorders


Neurotic disorders dominated the landscape of psychopathology for almost a century before dying a sudden and traumatic death in 1980 with the publication of the DSM-III. The cause was unbearably heavy theoretical baggage and acute empirical insufficiencies. But the study of the temperament of neuroticism lived on, mostly in the laboratories of developmental and personality psychologists. Now, research has delineated empirically supported common dimensions shared by all anxiety, mood, and related emotional disorders, including higher-order temperaments, mood distortions and dysregulations, and extent and types of avoidance. In this presentation, I suggest a new integrative diagnostic scheme for the emotional disorders, as well as a unified transdiagnostic treatment addressing shared higher-order temperamental factors.


  • List temperaments and key features that comprise the emotional disorders
  • List different emotional avoidance strategies
  • Describe common therapeutic strategies to treat emotional disorders


Dr. Louis Cozolino

Why Therapy Works


Psychotherapy works - this is a basic assumption of our profession. But why does it work and why does it matter that we understand how it works? Regardless of your psychotherapeutic methods, all positive change comes down to the brain and how it evolved into a social organ - especially how brains evolved to learn, unlearn, and relearn. All this learning and re-learning is the target of our interventions and the basis of lasting psychological change. In this presentation, Lou Cozolino will explore these underlying mechanisms of action of psychotherapeutic change.


  • Participants will learn how the brain evolved and develop into a social organ
  • Participants will learn how the brain learns and relearns in the process of psychotherapy
  • Participants will learn how stress and trauma impact our abilities to connect with others and risk our disconnection from attunement, compassion, and empathy.


Dr. Daniel Hughes

Healing Families: From Distance & Conflict to Openness & Relaxed Engagement


Too often families lose their way and become lost in separate spaces or repetitive conflicts. The future is most bleak when they ((stop trying to be a family but rather)) become content with a self-protective defensive stance that prevents true connection. We now have insights from neuroscience ((and the work of Stephen Porges, in particular)) about how defensiveness will lift when we are able to maintain an attitude of being open and engaged with our immediate environment. Facilitating this ((open and engaged attitude)) is a crucial step in helping families to heal. ((But it is not the last step)). For the family and its members to truly heal, they also need to begin to experience ways of creating profound moments of meaningful connection. ((s that are now available to them.)) This presentation follows the guidance derived from attachment and neuroscience ((theory and research)) and provides a model of family therapy that assists the family in developing safety and then discovering ways to become deeply connected with one another. The specific therapeutic attitude of this PACE model will be presented along with ways to develop the connections that emerge from affective-reflective dialogue.


  • Participants will understand the nature of the common therapeutic journey from defensiveness through interpersonal safety to the reciprocal experience of relaxation and connection
  • Participants will be able to describe the four features of PACE that enable family members to begin to experience each other in healing ways
  • Participants will be able to describe how the therapist is able to help the therapist to develop a coherent narrative through the development of an affective-reflective dialogue


Dr. Guy Diamond

Attachment-Based Family Therapy: Navigating Relational Reframes


Family therapists have increasingly turned to attachment theory to understand

a) individual and familial development;

b) negative interactional cycles that reinforce distress; and c) clinical strategies for resolving interpersonal conflict. Attachment theory views intrapsychic development and interpersonal experience as intimately linked in an on-going interactional process. This theory also helps family therapists understand how the emotional needs for connection and acknowledgement often drive behavior. Attachment-Based Family Therapy (ABFT), an empirically supported model, uses attachment theory to facilitate conversations about core attachment ruptures that block parent-child trust, thus undermining the day to day functioning of familial relationships. ABFT is structured into five treatment tasks: relational reframing, alliance building with the adolescent, alliance building with the parent(s), attachment repairing, and promoting autonomy. This workshop will provide an overview of all five tasks, but will focus on teaching clinical skills specific to the relational reframe. In the first session, these skills refocus therapy on relationship enhancement, rather than individual symptom management. Videos, and small group discussions will help participants learn these skills.


  • To discuss how attachment and emotional processing theories can inform family therapy
  • To understand the overarching clinical framework and goals of
  • To review the empirical support and clinical evidence for the practice of
  • To learn the purpose and structure of the five treatment tasks
  • To gain therapeutic skills that focus on interpersonal growth rather than behavioral management


Dr. Janina Fisher

When Intimacy Feels Unsafe: Healing the Trauma Legacy in Couples Therapy


Recent developments in neuroscience research, a renewed and more sophisticated understanding of the implications of attachment failure, and the development of neurobiologically-informed treatment techniques offer some hopeful answers to the puzzling and frustrating challenges of treating traumatized couples. This workshop will address the neurobiological legacy of trauma and its impact upon the experience of relationship in couples with histories of neglect, attachment failure, and trauma. Using interventions drawn from Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, a somatically-oriented talking therapy for trauma, we will explore how to address the intense responses and impulsive reactions that undermine any sense of safety and hope in each partner and re-create the experience of threat in the body.


  • Discuss the neurobiological effects of traumatic experience on individuals and couples
  • Describe interaction of traumatic activation and couples conflict
  • Identify patterns that increase/decrease activation of animal defense survival responses
  • Increase couples’ ability to observe their somatic communication
  • Integrate somatic interventions into couples treatment


Dr. Zindel V. Segal

Connecting from the Inside Out: Mindful Awareness Promotes Interpersonal Effectiveness


Overidentification with mental contents, excessive self-reference and ceaseless discrepancy monitoring perpetuate symptom expression in physical and mental disorders. Mindfulness meditation, among other contemplative practices, enhances access to an alternative mode of processing that is less reliant on these strategies, instead, promoting effective regulation through acceptant, present oriented and somatically informed states of mind. In recognition of this promise, secular, structured programs designed to teach mindfulness in a variety of applied settings have proliferated, with this very dissemination being lauded as the vanguard of a revolution in health care and society. Zindel Segal will describe some of exciting clinical and neural outcomes in this field and guide brief mindfulness practices to provide participants with an experiential understanding of this work.


  • Recognize the cognitive, affective and somatic markers of the doing and being modes
  • Practice and inquire into mindfulness of the breath and body
  • Understand how mindfulness can increase the repertoire of adaptive responses during conflictual interpersonal interactions


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