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Working with parents with a history of complex trauma

Practitioners have noted that while each parent has their own unique story and experiences, many parents who have experienced recurrent care proceedings have themselves experienced significant and multiple adverse experiences in their own childhood (ACEs) and have continued to face trauma and difficulties as adults, compounded by the trauma of having their children taken away. These experiences can have a negative impact on parents’ views about support services and on their ability to trust services, which could help them.

In this section you will find video and audio clips of professionals explaining complex trauma and its effects and how it can link with a diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder. There are also helpful suggestions in these clips of how to respond to parents who have experienced complex trauma. This section also includes links to papers and articles with more background information on the impact of complex trauma and effective responses. 

Complex Trauma by Dr Sheena Webb (2020)

Sheena Webb is a consultant clinical psychologist who is the clinical lead for the London Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) specialist team. She describes complex trauma and its impact. (Length: 30 minutes)

Complex Trauma by Dr Sheena Webb (2018)

This is an earlier video (2018) of Dr Sheena Webb describing complex trauma and its impact and in addition introducing the theory underpinning a trauma-informed approach to practice.  (Length: 22 minutes).

Working with recurrent care-experienced birth mothers: Online resources

This Research in Practice resource for working with parents who have experienced recurrent care proceedings. This section of their resource looks at the impact of complex trauma on parents.

Personality Disorder

Helpful orientation to understanding potential difficulties for parents and professionals, or a diagnosis of exclusion? Working with Parents with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) / Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder Diagnosis (EUPD) video by Nicola Labuschagne, consultant clinical psychologist and Joe Druce, Social Worker, both from the Anna Freud Centre (2020). (Length: 47 minutes)

Working with parents with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder

Practitioners have noted that many parents who have experienced recurrent care proceedings have a diagnosis of EUPD or BPD. Many professionals are concerned that this diagnosis can be a barrier rather than a gateway to services.  This session critically explores this diagnosis, the links to histories of trauma and overlap with complex trauma and the implications for practice. 

Part One 
Nicola Labuschagne talking about the challenge of the different timescales for young children and for parents being able to demonstrate capacity to change. (Length: 3.30 minutes)

Part Two and Part Three 
Nicola Labuschagne and Joe Druce talking about the problem of accessing adult mental health services and suggesting that frontline staff who are not mental health specialists can be supported and trained to deliver worthwhile interventions. (Part Two, Length: 5.37 minutes and Part Three, Length: 4.48 minutes). 

Written resources

Links to articles and papers relevant for those working with parents who have experienced complex trauma or with parents who have mental health issues.

In particular, the Experiences of social work intervention among mothers with perinatal mental health needs study explored experiences of social work intervention among women with perinatal mental health difficulties. Findings suggested that mothers had a predominantly negative view of children's social services, especially when social workers had significant child protection concerns. Women's accounts highlighted the importance of feeling ‘known’ by social workers who understood and respected them. The findings also suggested there may be value in improving collaboration between social workers and mental health professionals to create more space for the representation of women's needs as well as those of their babies.

Additionally, the How does video interaction guidance contribute to infant and parental mental health and well-being? article describes the contribution of video interaction guidance (VIG) to the development of infant and parental and VIG practitioners’ mental health and wellbeing. 



All resources are organised by theme and include short videos, published papers, links to relevant websites or practice aides, as well as some resources developed by parents.
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