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Digital Seminar

Treating Personality Disorders: Advances from Brain Science and Traumatology

Noel R. Larson, PhD, MSW
2 Hours 46 Minutes
Mar 26, 2017
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Media Type:
Digital Seminar
Never expires.


Clients with personality disorders—narcissistic, borderline, antisocial, sociopathic—often have profound traumatic childhoods, which leave them without a solid inner core from which to function. Often “nudged” into treatment by others, including the law, their inability to trust and their need for power make forming a therapeutic alliance seemingly impossible. They come armed with defenses developed at very early ages that are designed to ensure their survival by protecting their fragility. In this workshop, you’ll explore:

  • How to develop a therapeutic alliance in the face of mistrust, control issues, and rock solid defenses while staying out of power struggles
  • How to work with the pathological dissociation typically present in personality disordered clients
  • Practical, effective interventions informed by neuroscience that help clients safely manage frightening symptoms, including violence and emotional meltdowns, and develop healthier boundaries and a more differentiated sense of self


Continuing Professional Development
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 2.75 hours CPD.



Noel R. Larson, PhD, MSW Related seminars and products

Noel R. Larson, PhD, MSW, is a licensed psychologist, marriage and family therapist and independent clinical social worker. She maintains a private practice at Meta Resources, a clinic she co-founded with James Maddock in 1981. Dr. Larson also provides supervision and consultation to groups throughout the country and conducts training workshops in the U.S. and abroad on personality disorders, family therapy, resilience, sexual abuse treatment, systemic treatment of domestic violence, group therapy, trauma and attachment and the therapist differentiation.
Dr. Larson provides ongoing consultation with several health care, social service and corrections organizations in Minnesota and Colorado and has had an ongoing consultation and training practice in Denmark for thirty years. Noel taught for several years at the University of Minnesota Graduate School of Social Work before becoming director of the Family Sexual Abuse Treatment Program at the University of Minnesota Medical School. She also developed and implemented the first U.S. treatment program for incarcerated female sex offenders at the Shakopee women's prison.
Dr. Larson is the coauthor of Incestuous Families: An Ecological Approach to Understanding and Treatment (Norton). As a consultant to a domestic violence treatment program, her and Dr. Maddock's systemic model was featured on Oprah, as an alternative to the cognitive-behavioral anger-management model.


Speaker Disclosures:

Financial:  Noel Larson receives a speaking honorarium from PESI, Inc.  She has no relevant financial relationships with ineligible organizations.
Non-financial:  Noel Larson has no relevant non-financial relationship to disclose.  


  • Personality disorders in the US, prevalence and personal history

            Risk factors, therapeutic options

  • Diagnostic criteria for personality disorders

            Cluster characteristics

            Developmental characteristics

  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder

            Differential diagnostic criteria and defining characteristics

            Pathological v. healthy narcissism                 

  • Grandiose v. vulnerable narcissism
  • Continuum of disturbance and loss of self
  • Borderline Personality Disorder

            Differential diagnostic criteria and defining characteristics

            Boundary setting and treatment approaches

            Attachment and therapeutic relationship considerations

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder

            Differential diagnostic criteria and defining characteristics

            Victim v. perpetrator symptom expression

  • Psychopathy and personality characteristics
  • “No Solid Self”

            Complex therapeutic history

            Common underpinnings to varied personality diagnoses

            Relationship characteristics

  • Developmental processes underlying personality disorders

            Family systems

            Neurophysiological systems

  • Treatment approaches

            Determining level of intervention

            Self-regulation, positive regard, mirroring

            Creating attachment and inserting self into therapy

            Importance of non-verbal communication

            Language selection and techniques

  • Identifying meaning of disordered behavior and emotional regulation
  • Therapist self-regulation, necessity and strategies
  • Pictoral Coherence technique
  • “Undissociation” technique
  • General principles for therapeutic intervention


  1. Utilize clinical strategies to develop a therapeutic alliance in the face of mistrust, control issues, and rock- solid defenses while staying out of power struggles
  2. Apply effective tools for working with pathological dissociation in therapy 
  3. Utilize clinical interventions informed by neuroscience to alleviate symptoms of personality disorders,  including violence and emotional meltdowns

Target Audience

Addiction Counselors, Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, Nurses, Social Workers

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