Treating Attachment Trauma from the Perspective of Mentalizing

Guidelines for treating trauma prescribe cognitive-behavioral approaches such as exposure therapy and cognitive restructuring as empirically supported treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder. Yet maltreatment in childhood attachment relationships constitutes a non-specific risk factor for a wide range of psychopathology in adulthood that includes severe personality disorders coupled with problems in emotion regulation.

A mentalizing approach to treating attachment trauma provides a conceptual bridge between cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic approaches while making use of attachment theory and research to address the pervasive problem of reenactment of traumatic attachments in current relationships, including treatment relationships. Such reenactments perpetuate a range of trauma-related problems beyond posttraumatic stress disorder. From this theoretical base, the workshop addresses challenges psychotherapists face in treating patients with a history of attachment trauma.


  • Explain the role of impaired mentalizing in attachment trauma;
  • Describe how a mentalizing perspective on trauma treatment integrates cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic approaches; and
  • Consider the impact of treating trauma on psychotherapists from a mentalizing perspective.