Bessel van der Kolk, MD
Online Course English

Foundations of Trauma

Laying out the groundwork for understanding trauma

2 lessons 60 mins



Course price

Foundations of Trauma

Course Description

This lecture examines how we understand what trauma does to the mind and body and explores the rich history of trauma, as considered by some of the great thinkers of the western canon’s past. This foundational approach provides insights into our modern perceptions of and approaches to discussing, treating, and reimagining trauma and how it inhabits the body.

Foundations of Trauma focuses on the history and physiology of trauma. With insights from Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Pierre Janet, and Ivan Pavlov, Dr. van der Kolk lays the groundwork for understanding how trauma is lived out in heart-breaking, gut-wrenching sensations and how traumatic experiences condition responses and predispose the traumatized to a fixation on what happened to them. Because treating trauma requires more than talk, we will examine why we must manage states of hyperarousal with deep, visceral experiences in order to rewrite our internal maps of the world and restore a sense of safety. We will examine the role of interpersonal rhythms and attunement in establishing a sense of self and community and consider how trauma affects self-awareness and self-regulation.

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Foundations of Trauma

Course Objective

At the end of this lecture you will be able to

  • Discuss how we understand trauma in historical and cultural contexts
  • Identify ways in which the history of trauma and trauma research influence modern perceptions of trauma
  • Describe how key historical figures have contributed to modern perceptions of trauma
  • Compare contemporary treatment paradigms and their limitations
  • Discuss body-oriented treatment modalities
  • List two physiological changes that happen to the brains and bodies of traumatized people
  • Describe two critical ways that the brain and body communicate with each other
  • Critique barriers to treatment for traumatized people
  • Discuss the core issues of trauma
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Foundations of Trauma

Course Outline


  • Vietnam, PTSD, and the DSM
  • PTSD is more than memories
  • Universality of trauma
  • Failure to acknowledge trauma
  • What trauma does to people
  • Trauma is persistent


  • Early experiences shape the mind
  • Dynamics of family life
  • The importance of synchrony
  • Resilience and community
  • Human connections
  • The consequences of an unstable family dynamic


  • The world through the lens of PTSD
  • What it means to be stuck in trauma
  • How trauma changes our perception of the world
  • The traumatized body
  • The relationship between trauma and medical conditions
  • Cultural responses to trauma
  • Restoring a sense of safety


  • Challenges with studying trauma
  • Brain scanners in studying trauma
  • How PTSD diminishes connections
  • Insights from Charles Darwin
  • Embodied emotion


  • The vagus nerve
  • The survival brain
  • The sensations trauma produces in our bodies
  • When parents traumatize
  • The vagus nerve is reciprocal
  • Self regulation


  • Insights from Pierre Janet
  • Fixation on trauma and how that translates to repeating and reliving the trauma
  • Insights from Sigmund Freud
  • Talk is important, but it is not enough


  • Insights from Ivan Pavlov
  • Conditioning and deconditioning
  • Helplessness is at the core of trauma
  • The importance of a sense of purpose

APA, BCIA CREDIT = 1 CE Counselors, Social Workers, Psychotherapists, Marriage & Family Therapists, Nurses, Psychologists, Addictions Counselors, Occupational Therapists, Case Managers, Other Mental Health Professionals This program, when attended in its entirety, is available for 1 continuing education credits. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge & Associates is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge & Associates maintains responsibility for this program and its content. The continuing education credits for each workshop/course are designated in the workshop/course descriptions. You must attend the entire program in order to receive the credit(s), complete the Participant Satisfaction/Evaluation form and return it to your presenter or monitor at the conclusion of the program, and complete the supplemental reading and test questions. You must receive a score of at least 70% on the test questions to receive credit. Partial credits will not be given. There is no commercial support for this program nor are there any relationships between the Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge & Associates and Northeast Region Biofeedback Society, presenter, program content, research, grants, or other funding that could reasonably be construed as conflicts of interest.

Target Audience: Psychologists • Mental Health Counselors • Social Workers Marriage and Family Therapists • Nurses • Psychiatrists Case Managers • Other Mental Health Professionals

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