Therapeutic relationship in the treatment of traumatized clients with personality disorders


Therapeutic relationship is often a major challenge in the treatment of traumatized clients with comorbid personality disorders. Maladaptive interpersonal styles and negative transferences resulting from attachment trauma can make a trauma-oriented therapy very difficult. However, an understanding of personality disorders as a consequence of attachment trauma creates new therapeutic possibilities for patients who are considered difficult to treat though urgently in need of therapy. Given this background, the workshop aims at enhancing the participants’ capacity to manage problems of therapeutic relationship in traumatized clients with personality disorder. In the first part of the workshop, an overview on possible neurobiological causes of specific patterns of experiencing and behavior in personality disorders will be given. Deficits in emotion regulation, mentalization function, and personality integration, all of which have been identified as underlying dysfunctional and self-destructive behavioral patterns, can be understood as consequences of attachment trauma. In the second part of the workshop, a phase-oriented treatment conception will be presented which combines elements from resource-oriented trauma therapies with aspects of a psychodynamic understanding of attachment relationships. In the framework of this concept, the notions of transference and countertransference will be introduced to explain difficulties typically arising in the relationship with traumatized clients with severe personality disorders. On the basis of case material, strategies will be presented to deal with recurrent problems of therapeutic relationship.






Wolfgang Woller

Original Work Citation

Woller, W. (2010, July). Therapeutic relationship in the treatment of traumatized clients with personality disorders. Preconference presentation at the 1st EMDR Asia Conference, Bali, Indonesia



“Therapeutic relationship in the treatment of traumatized clients with personality disorders,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed June 16, 2021,

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