608 – Addressing Transference in Trauma Treatment

When the Internalized Abuser Gets in the Way
Amelio D’Onofrio

A sad but basic fact of human psychology is that in the wake of trauma we can often internalize our abuser, adopting that person’s destructive voice and attitude as nonstop self-criticism. This punitive voice can instill negative expectations for relationships in general, and with the psychotherapist in particular, thus short-circuiting the healing process. This workshop will focus on identifying and intervening with this punishing internalized presence in a way that can repair ruptures in the therapeutic relationship and get therapy back on track. You’ll explore how to:

  • Create the sense of secure attachment needed for effective treatment through mindful presence, accurate mirroring, and nondefensive receptivity
  • Use mutual mentalization to address the transferential triggers of the client’s past traumatic relationships and repair the ruptures as they’re enacted in therapy
  • Help clients move from splitting, idealization, and merger in the transference to speaking with their own voice and experience real intimacy


Amelio D’Onofrio, PhD, is clinical professor and director of the Psychological Services Institute at Fordham University. He’s the founder of The Florence Seminars in Mental Health, and author of Adolescent Self-injury: A Comprehensive Guide for Counselors and Health Care Professionals.

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