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2019-Bessel van der Kolk

Frontiers of Trauma Treatment, a 2019 Cape Cod Institute workshop led by Bessel van der Kolk, July 29 - August 2, 2019

Bessel van der Kolk

Frontiers of Trauma Treatment
July 29 - August 2, 2019

Most people who seek psychiatric care have histories of trauma, chaos, or neglect. The past two decades have seen an explosion of knowledge about how experience shapes the brain and the formation of the self. This evolving science has had profound implications for our understanding of what constitutes effective intervention. Sadly, most of the knowledge about how trauma affects the brain and the development of the entire human organism remains to find its way into the curricula of professional schools.

Advances in the neurosciences, attachment research, and information processing show how brain function is shaped by experience and that life itself can continually transform perception and biology. The memory imprints of trauma(s) are held in physical sensations, bodily states, and habitual action patterns. This causes the entire human organism to continuously react to current experiences as a replay of the past.

The earliest form of trauma treatment was to tell other people the story of what had happened and to find support and validation. However, validation, insight, and understanding are rarely enough to deal with unspeakable, intolerable, and unacceptable traumatic experience. Trauma causes people to remain trapped in the past by leaving deep, ongoing imprints on the entire organism–from their immune systems to their internal physical rhythms. Neither words nor compassion suffice in accessing these deep imprints on body and brain.

To overcome the tyranny of the past one needs to learn to befriend one’s damaged inner world and learn to deal with initially overwhelming sensations and arousal levels. Hence, recovery requires facing the imprint of trauma on the self as helpless, enraged, betrayed, ashamed, and endangered. Healing involves dealing with the defensive efforts that helped ensure survival, but that now keep people stuck. The cultivation of a deep sense of physical safety and physical mastery is a prerequisite for initiating new ways of perceiving reality and promoting new behavior patterns, and requires effective ways to deal with the fragmented memories of the past.

Recovery means bringing the traumatic experience to an end in every aspect of the human organism. In this course we will explore the role of yoga, mindfulness, rhythms, EMDR, neurofeedback, sensorimotor therapy, martial arts, Internal Family Systems Therapy, and theater to help mind, brain, and body to live fully in the present, rather than staying trapped in the traumatic past.


Trauma and developmental psychopathology. The acquisition of affect regulation, attachment, and psychopathology. The breakdown of information processing in trauma.


Affective neuroscience for thoughtful clinicians. The nature of the threat response, attention, and concentration. Lessons from neuroimaging and psychophysiology.



Recognition and treatment of survival action patterns. Assessment, treatment planning, stabilization techniques, and trauma processing. Neural plasticity and rewiring brain circuitry.


Specific stabilization and trauma processing techniques, including EMDR, touch, yoga, improvisational techniques, chi qong in the treatment of learned helplessness and dissociation.


From fight/flight to being alive to the present–integration of traumatic memories, including group and theater approaches.

Bessel van der Kolk

Bessel van der Kolk

Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD, is a clinician, researcher and teacher in the area of posttraumatic stress. His work integrates developmental, neurobiological, psychodynamic and interpersonal aspects of the impact of trauma and its treatment.

Dr. van der Kolk and his various collaborators have published extensively on the impact of trauma on development, such as dissociative problems, borderline personality and self-mutilation, cognitive development, memory, and the psychobiology of trauma. He has published over 150 peer reviewed scientific articles on such diverse topics as neuroimaging, self-injury, memory, neurofeedback, developmental trauma, yoga, theater and EMDR.

He is president of the Trauma Center in Boston, MA, past president of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, and Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University Medical School. He regularly teaches at universities and hospitals around the world.

His most recent 2014 New York Times Science best seller, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Treatment of Trauma transforms our understanding of traumatic stress, revealing how it literally rearranges the brain’s wiring—specifically areas dedicated to pleasure, engagement, control, and trust. He shows how these areas can be reactivated through innovative treatments including neurofeedback, mindfulness techniques, play, yoga, and other therapies. See:

See / Hear Bessel van der Kolk

What our alumni are saying:

"Dr. van der Kolk was articulate and willing to share his journey, a mix of science and personal experience. The opportunity to spend several morningswith such a brilliant, thoughtful person is the best part of the Institute.”

"Dr. van der Kolk is knowledgeable and unafraid of expressing his opinions, and posited challenges about thinking about myself as a clinician and the system I work within."

“This course has helped me validate, improve, organize, and learn more of the brain science behind effective trauma treatments that I have been employing in my clinical practice.”

Other Courses You May Like:

Deborah Korn July 1-5
Treating Complex Trauma: Optimal Integration of Treatment Models

John P. Forsyth and Jamie R. Forsyth July 22-26
Harnessing the Transformative Power of Mindful ACT Therapy: How to Live Well When Life Is Hard

Licia Sky August 5-9
Embodied Self-Experience: Enhancing Awareness in Clinical Practice through Meditation, Movement, and Voice

Amy Weintraub and Angela Huebner August 19-23
Internal Family Systems Therapy™ Goes to the Mat with LifeForce Yoga: A Week of Healing and Learning

NJ Social Workers:

Social workers completing this course will receive 15 Clinical Practice continuing education credits. ASWB ACE individual course approval statements can be found here.

For all other CE information:

Please visit our CE page and search by discipline.