An Integrative Approach to Conceptualizing and Treating Complex Trauma

Donna Mahoney*, Brandon Markel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Complex trauma (CT) often presents with polymorphous symptoms (i.e., emotional dysregulation, dissociation, somatic distress) resulting from repeated and chronic exposure to traumatic stressors. While the public is increasingly aware of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its accompanying symptoms, the phenomena of complex trauma is less recognized and understood. Since the trauma reactions with CT typically occur during childhood, and the symptoms go well beyond PTSD, the authors of this article assert that an integrative approach is needed that synthesizes the most effective elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) while blending a self-psychological approach. A review of the literature addresses the definition of complex trauma, cognitive-behavioral conceptualizations and treatment approaches, self-psychological models, current theories of attachment, and advances in neuropsychoanalysis. An integrative model is then proposed, supported by clinicians in the trauma field, identifying three intertwined phases of treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalPsychoanalytic Social Work
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • CBT
  • complex trauma
  • integrative psychotherapy
  • self psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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