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Digital Seminar

Rebuilding Trust After Attachment Ruptures in Children & Adolescents

Dana Wyss, PhD, LMFT, ATR-BC, RPT™
6 Hours 12 Minutes
Dec 08, 2020
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Digital Seminar
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Family loss, abuse, neglect, and complex developmental trauma erode trust in self and others causing attachment ruptures. Children and adolescents are at higher risk of impact due to their dependence on others to meet their needs, making them even more vulnerable!

Without proper intervention, these ruptures will greatly impact a child’s overall safety, and their ability to connect with others is jeopardized.

Watch Dana Wyss, PhD, author and expert in complex trauma, to delve deeper into the impact of these attachment ruptures that lead to lack of trust, anger/rage, anxiety, self-injury, aggression toward others, and suicidal ideation. You’ll learn how to:

  • Support increased sense of safety and attachment, regardless of the child’s level of involvement in treatment
  • Build connections in groups, individual and family therapy
  • Implement modifications to address various developmental and functioning levels

Through experiential practise that supports resiliency, imagination, and identity, you’ll master activities to build critical thinking, nonverbal and verbal expression to immediately support attachment repair!


- PESI Australia, in collaboration with PESI in the USA, offers quality online continuing professional development events from the leaders in the field at a standard recognized by professional associations including psychology, social work, occupational therapy, alcohol and drug professionals, counselling and psychotherapy. On completion of the training, a Professional Development Certificate is issued after the individual has answered and submitted a quiz and course evaluation. This online program is worth 6 hours CPD for points calculation by your association.



Dana Wyss, PhD, LMFT, ATR-BC, RPT™'s Profile

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Star View Adolescent Center

Dana Wyss, PhD, LMFT, ATR-BC, RPT™, is a board-certified art therapist, a registered play therapist, a marriage and family therapist, holds a doctorate in expressive therapies, and is the coauthor of The Invisible String Workbook. Her doctorate in expressive therapies has led her to create programs integrating art, music, poetry, dance, and animal assisted therapy in the healing process for clients and self-care of staff. For the last 25 years, Dr. Wyss has worked in psychiatric hospitals, group homes, and nonpublic school settings to manage crisis, conduct training, coach staff, and support children and families. Dr. Wyss is a corporate clinical training specialist and clinical/art therapy supervisor at Stars Behavioral Health Group, a company specializing in the treatment of complex developmental trauma. She also owns a small private practice where she specializes in the use of art and play for all ages. Dr. Wyss is a national trainer and consultant with the Center for Trauma Training and national trainer to raise awareness of commercial sexual exploitation of children. She uses her creativity for her own healing as well as to support others.


Speaker Disclosures:
Financial: Dana Wyss has employment relationships with Stars Behavioral Health Group, Center for Trauma Training, and Loyola Marymount University. She receives royalties as a published author. She is an exam writer at ATCB and reviewer for both ATCB and Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education and Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Dana Wyss receives a speaking honorarium and recording royalties from PESI, Inc. She has no relevant financial relationships with ineligible organizations.
Non-financial: Dana Wyss is a member of American Art Therapy Association and Association for Play Therapy.


  1. Differentiate healthy attachments from disrupted attachments to inform treatment planning. 
  2. Evaluate the differences between acute, chronic, and complex traumas and their impact on attachment. 
  3. Practice effectively processing grief and attachment disruptions. 
  4. Employ interventions that increase emotional identification and expression
  5. Use safe rituals and healthy boundaries to strengthen the resiliency of treatment outcomes.
  6. Apply developmentally appropriate art and writing interventions to enhance feelings of trust and safety.


Attachment Ruptures and Impact

  • What is healthy attachment?
  • Secure, ambivalent, and avoidant attachment styles
  • The effects of attachment ruptures over time
  • Trauma: acute, chronic, and complex developmental
  • Fight, flight, freeze, and submit/comply

Attachment-Focused Assessment & Treatment Planning
How to meet goals and benchmarks:

  • Iceberg Activity – delve below surface to see beyond behaviours
  • What is connecting you and why – “The Invisible String”
  • Tools that can be used in the clinical interview
  • Identifying the details and impact of the rupture
  • Creating a trauma-responsive environment
  • Modifications for age and developmental level

Attachment Ruptures: Familial loss and Complex Developmental Trauma

  • Disruption: loss (death of a family member, divorce, separation due to military, work travel, COVID)
  • Impact: loss of connection, change in structure or routine, lack of trust
  • Response: confusion, anger, grief, anxiety, self-injury, defiance
  • Vignette examples and analyzations

Creative Interventions for:
Increased safety, identity development and resiliency

  • I Wish Everyone Understood to support communication and trust
  • Qualities of Safety (connection and trust)
  • My Safe Place(s) (identifying emotionally safe spaces)

Increased trust, emotional identification and expression

  • Personal Feeling Chart (self-awareness)
  • Feelings Charades (trust)
  • Words Have Power (identity, self-trust)
  • Games for didactic engagement to support trust

Activities to Support Grief and Separation:

  • Ice Cube Feelings to process underlying feelings related to grief and loss
  • When I miss you to create connection with someone who is far away or who has passed away
  • When We are Apart use a transitional object to support continued connection with both parents
  • Family Map identifies family members and reminds us we are connected

Put Critical Thinking to Work
Modify and adjust activities:

  • Different ages
  • Developmental level
  • Educational level

Setting the Stage of Trust for Continued Safety

  • The Container closing activity to empower choice, safe rituals and healthy boundaries

Target Audience

  • Counselors
  • Social Workers
  • Psychologists
  • Case Managers
  • Psychiatrists
  • School Psychologists
  • Marriage and Family Therapists
  • School Counselors
  • Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants
  • Educators
  • Speech-Language Pathologists
  • Creative Arts therapists
  • Group leaders/Rehabilitation Staff that work with children or families

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