Meet Our Plenary Speakers

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Beyond Trauma-informed Care: Dignity Affirming and Shame Sensitive Practice
Presenters: Heather Hall, MD & Michael Salter, PhD

A generation ago, the concept of trauma-informed care ushered in a paradigm shift in health and welfare service, promoting humanizing and person-centered care for survivors of abuse and violence. However, models of trauma-informed care are focused on post-traumatic stress disorder and are not sensitized to the unique needs of people with complex trauma and dissociation. Trauma-informed care policies and practice guidance are often silent on how to engage and support severely dissociative people, in particular.

This plenary presents dignity-affirming and shame sensitive practice as the next generation of trauma-informed care. Drawing on our own research and experience, as well as seminal work by Dolezal and Gibson, we outline the key features and characteristics of shame-sensitive practice, recognizing that shame is the core emotional correlate of complex trauma and dissociation. Whereas trauma-informed care remains grounded in a medical model of psychological injury, shame-sensitive practice acknowledges that shame is a shared response to abuse, violence, inequality and discrimination. We position shame sensitivity as the proactive responsibility of professionals and services.

Dignity-affirming care draws on the philosophy and praxis of non-violence. Rather than the absence or prevention of shame, dignity affirming care promotes practices and processes that directly oppose shame, providing for abiding and embodied experiences of feeling valued and important. We explain the key features of processes of “dignification” and the ways in which services and professionals can communicate directly to clients that they matter.

The presentation provides concrete examples of the intersecting psychological, social and political dimensions of shame, with a focus on race and racism. Childhood trauma, disorganized attachment and social defeat are situated within the broader context of racial inequality and racist backlash in ways that corrode mental health, but also impact on access to mental health care and diagnostic practice. We explore the role of clinical care in the amelioration of shame and the promotion of dignity, drawing on philosophies of non-violence to consider how we attribute responsibility for harm within frameworks of dignification.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Dignity in Dissociating, Dignity in Treatment
Presenter: Emma Christensen PhD

Discussions and new research the last few years have explored how dissociative presentations in the therapeutic setting look and feel different than decades ago.  Shifting culture and changing needs require cultural humility to adapt and improve services for effective and ethical treatment.  How do clinical models in other movements, such as with disability and LGBTQIA+ movements, inform us in our efforts to care for dissociative and plural populations today? 

Systemic oppression is the mistreatment of people of a specific group that is supported and enforced by society and its institutions.  This mistreatment often continues through generations, even when those abuses change “shape” and are given different labels.  What has been the role of historical trauma in the treatment setting, and how do these collective conversations impact treatment today? 

Recent years have also brought specific historical traumas to the surface with fresh focus on reparations improving quality of life.  In the mental health community specifically, there have been controversies and communal calls for action in effort to improve care for people with trauma and dissociation.  How does cultural humility help us to empower clients rather than oppressing them?   

Building on previous presentations about the history of dissociation as a diagnosis, the development of treatment models, and the growth of mad pride culture, Dr. Christensen explains how existing models already validate the space of functional multiplicity – and why we have not noticed it before.   This begs the question: What has been the impact of the online community phenomena… and the clinical role in its development?

Come learn the current trends in language and cultural experience of trauma and dissociation, why it matters, and how to effectively and sensitively provide services for people with these experiences. 

This eye-opening session will change how you interact with your clients, while providing a level of cultural competency that is a critical aspect of any ethical practice with cultural humility.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Breaking Barriers to Healing: Confronting Stigma in Mental Health Treatment
Presenter: Maggi Price, PhD

Stigma is a central contributor to mental health disparities. Stigma can be understood as the societal lens that casts individuals as inferior due to circumstances, behaviors, statuses, or identities. This lens affects individuals internally, in their relationships, and through structural elements in society. Extensive research tells us that stigma, in all its forms, is linked to increased mental health challenges like depression, PTSD, and suicidality among those with stigmatized identities, such as people of Color and transgender youth. This connection is largely because stigmatized indiv iduals face higher levels of trauma, discrimination, and ongoing stressors.

Today, there is a growing need for effective mental health care for stigmatized populations. Inequities in the severity of mental health problems, diagnosis, and treatment have persisted over time, with gaps widening during the pandemic. These disparities can largely be traced back to stigma operating at multiple levels: (1) internalized stigma, where individuals adopt harmful beliefs due to their environment, (2) interpersonal stigma, where people experience prejudice and discrimination, and (3) structural stigma, which includes laws, policies, norms, and attitudes that negatively affect stigmatized groups.

In this plenary session, Dr. Maggi Price will delve into cutting-edge research on stigma and its impact on mental health treatment, with a particular focus on structural stigma. She will outline three future research directions in this field: (1) directly addressing stigma, including stigma-based trauma, within treatment, (2) enhancing therapist training to provide culturally responsive care, and (3) exploring multilevel interventions to tackle stigma comprehensively. Dr. Price will draw from her own research, including meta-analyses on structural stigma’s influence on psychotherapy effectiveness and her intervention work with transgender youth. The session will conclude with Dr. Price’s recommendations for best practices in mental health treatment for stigmatized clients. Join us as we explore ways to navigate stigma in mental health for a more inclusive and equitable future.

ISSTD Annual Conference