Sunday, September 25, 2011

Michael Trout at the ATTACh Conference

I have just returned from a wonderful week immersed in learning about new treatment ideas and meeting marvelous people. I have a lot to share. This week I am going to focus on Michael Trout, who I had the honor of meeting at the ATTTACh conference ( Michael is the author of the Multiple Transitions video that we include in our Risking Connection training. This video, which our participants always find so moving, can be purchased at the Infant Parent Institute store ( Many organizations have begun to use it to train new staff, and I highly recommend it.

Michael Trout is the Director of the Infant Parent Institute which engages in research, clinical practice and clinical training related to problems of attachment. He was the founding president of the International Association for Infant Mental Health; was on the charter Editorial Board of the Infant Mental Health Journal; served as regional vice-president for the United States for the World Association for Infant Mental Health; and currently serves on the board of directors (and as editor of the newsletter) for APPPAH — the Association for Pre- & Perinatal Psychology and Health. In 1984 he won the Selma Fraiberg Award for “ . . . significant contributions to the needs of infants and their families.” Mr. Trout has produced 14 clinical training videos that are used by universities and clinics around the world, including the six-hour video training series, The Awakening and Growth of the Human: Studies in Infant Mental Health. He has also written and produced four videos focusing on the unique perspective of babies on divorce, adoption, loss and domestic violence. The most important part of Mr. Trout’s work continues to be in his quiet private practice where he sees individuals and families of all ages on a daily basis.

I attended a work shop by Mr. Trout on the topic of the therapist as a secure base for their clients. He showed videos and led the audience in an experiential exercise to demonstrate attunement. Mr. Trout shared three actions that are essential for the therapist to create a secure base.

Wonder: The therapist must approach the patient with genuine curiosity and awe. He must remain interested in this person’s story, this person’s experience. This wonder can be side tracked by theories. If the therapist thinks he already has the situation figured out, his mind will only go down one path and he will close his eyes to contrary evidence. Hearing others describe the patient, or reading their record, can also interfere with wonder. Hurrying, or having a pre determined agenda, are also problems. When the therapist keeps his mind open in wonder and curiosity, he will deeply hear the patient, and that person will know they have truly been seen.

Following: The therapist must be in pursuit of the patient. The therapist does not come in with a pre-decided agenda. He follows where the client wants to go and what the client wants to talk about.

Holding: This takes many forms. Its opposite is dropping. It means creating a feeling for the client that the therapist has his back. You won’t starve, I won’t leave, we will work this out together. It may require active advocating for the client.

These are the elements of creating a secure bases for the client.

Mr. Trout ended his workshop with a meditation from a CD that can also be purchased at the Infant-Patent Institute store. I plan to add it to my training. It comes from this CD (I include the description from their web site).

The Hope-Filled Parent

What could meditation mean to a foster mother who has learned to arise at 5:15 each day, in order to have 10 minutes of quiet before she begins the careful morning ritual needed for awakening her deeply troubled child without a meltdown? What could meditation mean to an adoptive father sitting alone at midnight, pondering what was happening to the peace of his home, the safety of his other children, and the intimacy he used to share with his wife? Could meditation make a difference to those foster or adoptive families who are on the brink of placement disruption, who are about to conclude they can simply not make it through another day?

Use these meditations in any way that suits you. There is no right or wrong way. If you find one that particularly speaks to you, you may find yourself listening to it every day, at about the same time. Maybe you will invite your spouse to join you, on the screened-in porch. Maybe you will listen to the entire CD on certain nights of despair, or listen to a funny one in the kitchen, while whistling. But it is my hope that you will find something herein that restores hope, that challenges your feelings of impotence that reminds you why your efforts are far from being in vain.

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