Complex trauma: Road to psychiatric dysfunction or path toward posttrauma growth?


Healthcare service providers, as well as, mental health practitioners, frequently associate the suffering of complex trauma with pathology, mental illness, personality disorders and severe psychiatric dysfunction. Clients are perceived as difficult to treat, interventions are guided by the nature of the psychiatric diagnosis and therapy focuses on crisis management and on helping clients to achieve reductions of symptoms that account for the psychiatric diagnosis. Although symptom reduction can be of great value and importance to sufferers, sole focus on this misses the great potential to engage a person in a transformative process that can lead to considerable inner strengthening, alignment and positive growth, as a result and in spite of their early traumatic experiences. This keynote introduces a shift in perspective away from the traditional focus on psychiatric dysfunction toward a model of positive growth for clients suffering from Complex Trauma and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). It is proposed that development of empathic empowerment of the individual toward greater personal authenticity, honesty, accountability and compassion can open the path toward posttrauma growth. However, in order to achieve such development specific parameters must be fulfilled. These parameters, which include therapist factors, the nature of the therapeutic relationship, an underlying therapeutic framework for working with complex trauma and the guiding principles and ingredients that nurture growth rather than dysfunction, will be outlined and illustrated through the use of client vignettes.






Claudia Herbert

Original Work Citation

Herbert, C. (2012, October). Complex trauma: Road to psychiatric dysfunction or path toward posttrauma growth? Keynote at the 4th Autumn EMDR Workshop Conference, Sheffield, UK



“Complex trauma: Road to psychiatric dysfunction or path toward posttrauma growth?,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed September 28, 2021,

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