Relational PTSD: At the Intersection of Attachment and Trauma

Event details

  • September 29, 2021
  • 6:00 PM

Join the New York Zero-to-Three Network for:
Relational PTSD – at the Intersection of Attachment and Trauma

Register here.

Presenter: Erica Willheim, PhD

Wednesday, 9/29/21
6pm to 7:30pm

Theories of attachment and trauma are typically taught under different subject domains. Attachment is usually taught within the field of Child Development and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is usually taught within the field of Mental Health. However, for very young children these two topic areas are inextricably intertwined. Indeed, a wholistic understanding of the trauma-exposed young child’s experience requires that we understand how Attachment and Trauma intersect. By definition, Attachment theory asks us to consider both the caregiver and child in relation to one another. In this workshop, we will explore an additional concept known as Relational PTSD which provides a framework for similarly considering the contributions of the caregiver and child to trauma symptomotology. Through a combination of didactics and clinical case vignettes we will explore the impact of trauma on attachment, attachment on trauma, and the bidirectional effects between caregiver and child. We will conclude the workshop with considering together how these understandings might impact our work with young children.

Learning objectives:
1. Explain the basic concept of Relational PTSD in terms of caregiver and child impact on one another.
2. Describe how the pre-trauma quality of attachment may influence child adjustment post-trauma.
3. Describe how trauma exposure may influence quality of attachment between caregiver and child.


Erica Willheim, Ph.D. is Research Assistant Professor at the Child Study Center in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. Dr. Willheim’s clinical and research areas of focus are early childhood mental health and trauma, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in parents and young children, the intergenerational transmission of trauma, the specific impact of domestic violence exposure on young children and caregivers, and abusive partner group interventions. She has over 20 years’ experience working across a broad range of NYC settings with high-risk young children, adolescents, adults, and families, particularly those involved in the criminal justice and child welfare systems who have suffered violent trauma exposure. Dr. Willheim is a nationally endorsed trainer in Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP), an attachment and trauma informed evidence-based treatment model for children ages 0-5 who have experienced at least one traumatic event and/or are experiencing mental health, attachment, and behavioral problems. Dr. Willheim is the author of “Dyadic Psychotherapy with Infants and Young Children: Child-Parent Psychotherapy” in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, and co-author of “The Effects of Violent Experience on Infants and Young Children”, in C.H. Zeanah (Ed.) Handbook of Infant Mental Health—4th Edition (2018).
This workshop is free for NYZTT members and $15 for non-members. If you’re not already, you can become a NYZTT member for $60 when you register for this workshop. Membership enables you to attend this and all workshops at no charge.
CE hours are also being offered through Dancing Dialogue. Participants must first register with New York Zero-to-Three Network here, on Eventbrite, and then register directly with Dancing Dialogue to receive CE credits.