Challenges in treating post-traumatic stress disorder and attachment trauma


Treating women suffering from trauma poses significant challenges. The diagnostic prototype of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is based on single-event trauma, such as sexual assault in adulthood. Several effective cognitivebehavioral treatments for such traumas have been developed, although many treated patients continue to experience residual symptoms. Even more problematic is the complex developmental psychopathology stemming from a lifetime history of multiple traumas, often beginning with maltreatment in early attachment relationships. A history of attachment trauma undermines the development of capacities to regulate emotional distress and thereby complicates the treatment of acute trauma in adulthood. Such complex trauma requires a multifaceted treatment approach that must balance processing of traumatic memories with strategies to contain the intense emotions this processing evokes. Moreover, conducting such treatment places therapists at risk for secondary trauma such that trauma therapists also must process this stressful experience and implement strategies to regulate their own distress.






Jon G. Allen

Original Work Citation

Allen, J. G. (2003). Challenges in treating post-traumatic stress disorder and attachment trauma. Current Women's Health Reports, 3, 213-220



“Challenges in treating post-traumatic stress disorder and attachment trauma,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed November 29, 2021,

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