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Clinical Master Classes 2017

Impact of Trauma on Refugee Children’s Social and Educational School Competences: Research, Clinical Implications and Treatment

Held on 14 March 2017
Recorded lecture published at (Sejla Murdoch only)

Professor Richard Clark
Emeritus Prof of Psychology, Flinders Univ
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Sejla Murdoch
Neurofeedback Counsellor, Psychologist, STARTTS
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Evening outline

Early life is crucial to brain growth and the related neural connectivities underpinning the normal accommodation and assimilation of experience.  Trauma severely impacts this process, affecting both brain development and the related emergence of cognitive, affective and social capacities. In this clinical evening professor Richard Clark and STARTTS’ Senior Psychologist, Sejla Murdoch, will provide an account of  the impact of trauma on neuronal, network and systems development in the brain and its  impact on factors such as attachment, self-concept and self-regulatory development, feelings and salience processing, on the development of attention, learning and memory skills and on social interest and engagement. It will also explore how this might relate  to the education and social prowess of refugee children. The presentation will examine the benefit of neurotherapeutic approaches to rehabilitation and recovery of traumatised individuals. This will be illustrated with case studies.

Mind-Body Integrative Approaches in the Treatment of Torture and Refugee Trauma Survivors

Held on 23 May 2017
Recorded lectures published at

Michael de Manincor
Counselling Psychologist, Director of The Yoga Institute
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Danielle Begg
Yoga Instructor, Co-Founder of the Refugee Yoga Project
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Clinical evening outline

It is widely recognised that mind-body integrative approaches may be more effective in helping traumatised clients understand, identify and manage their body sensations within the window of tolerance. For many refugee trauma clients it may be more tolerable and culturally acceptable to utilise these approaches. This Clinical Master Class Evening will bring together two Yoga practitioners who will share with us their expertise of using yoga as a part of mind-body integrative approaches.  Michael de Manincor, the Director of The Yoga Institute, will explore the research related to yoga as a mind-body intervention for mental health, and consider possibilities for developing an evidence-based intervention approach. This includes a consideration of the way that yoga is or could be taught for different individuals and groups, including survivors of torture or refugee trauma.  Daniella Begg, an accredited Yoga practitioner, will further explore how to use Yoga in the treatment of torture and trauma survivors, illustrating it with a group intervention utilised at STARTTS.

Utilising Behaviour Activation in the Treatment of Torture and Refugee Trauma Survivors

Held on 19 July 2017
Recorded lectures published at

Dr Simon Rosenbaum
NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow,
School of Psychiatry, UNSW
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Manuel Morantes and David Perez
Clinical Psychologist, Team Leader, STARTTS
Behaviour Activation Project Officer, STARTTS
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Engaging refugee trauma clients in healthy living practices is crucial to providing a solid foundation for brain health to support therapeutic interventions to further heal the mind and body, and hence regain a sense of control over body sensations, thoughts and feelings. Interventions targeting physical activity have repeatedly been shown to be efficacious in the augmentative treatment of a range of mental disorders. PTSD is associated with high rates of somatic comorbidities including metabolic syndrome contributing to an excess mortality rate due to preventable cardiovascular diseases. In this presentation, Dr Simon Rosenbaum will provide an overview of the available literature regarding physical activity and PTSD, with specific reference to the first published clinical trial of exercise for severe PTSD conducted in Sydney, as well as implications for clinical practice and future research. Based on the available evidence, there is reason to be optimistic that physical activity interventions delivered by physical therapists and exercise physiologists add a feasible and scalable component to the treatment of PTSD.  David Pérez Garcia, a behavioural activation project officer, and Manuel Francisco, a clinical psychologist, will explore how to integrate ongoing one on one exercise-based interventions with traditional counselling, illustrating this by a case presentation of a male Syrian refugee.

Cultural Variations in the Development and Maintenance of PTSD and its Neural Substrates in Refugee Trauma Treatment

Held on 2 August 2017
Recorded lectures published at

Dr Belinda Liddell
Research Fellow, School of Psychology, Refugee Trauma and Recovery Program, UNSW
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Shaheen Pordily
Neurofeedback Counsellor
Psychologist, STARTTS
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It has long been established that culture is a powerful environmental determinant of human behaviour. Advances in cultural neuroscience are now showing that culture also shapes brain function, including perception, attention, cognitive and emotional systems. One crucial culture factor is self-representation – that is, variations in levels of individualism (which dominate in Western based cultures like Australia) and collectivism (which are prevalent in many non-Western cultural groups). Variations in self-representation may be a central organising framework for information processing in the brain. Self-representation has been shown to alter the neural processes underlying fear responses, attentional biases to threat, autobiographical processing, self-referential processing, and attachment and interpersonal processing. In this clinical evening Dr Belinda Liddell will outline a new conceptual model suggesting that culture may be an important modulator of the neural processes underpinning PTSD. She will also discuss implications of this work for understanding PTSD presentations in people with a refugee background. Dr Liddell’s presentation will be followed by a case study presented by Shaheen Pordily, a registered psychologist and Neurofeedback Counsellor. Shaheen will explore how culture shapes and impacts various aspects of the self via a case study of a 19 year old girl from Afghanistan.

Complementary Role of Psychotherapy and Body Work in Treating Torture and Refugee Trauma Survivors

Held on 8 November 2017

Bruce Stark
Ortho-Bionomy Practitioner and Trainer, Sydney
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Hugh Churchward
Somatic Psychotherapist, Orthobionomy Practitioner, STARTTS
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Clinical Master Class Outline

Experiencing trauma can have a significant effect on our bodies and our minds; in fact trauma disrupts our body’s natural equilibrium, freezing us in a state of hyperarousal and fear. Recent scientific advances indicate that trauma reshapes both body and brain, compromising the sufferer’s capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. Traumatised clients tend to dissociate traumatic memory from feelings, as well as accompanying physiological sensations. Thus emotional trauma gets ‘stuck’ in the body, often somatised and expressed in the form of chronic pain. In this clinical evening Bruce Stark will explore the emerging confirmation of the role of bodywork in treating trauma survivors and its complementary relationship with psychotherapy. He will also highlight the complementary role of psychotherapy and body work in treating trauma survivors. Hugh Churchward will illustrate this with a case study of a client’s journey towards body awareness and the ability to self-regulate. He will further explore various methodologies and approaches that were utilised in this process.

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