Trauma, Dissociation & Resilience: a talk by Dr Aida Alayarian, Clinical Director of the Refugee Therapy Centre

Dissociation is an important concept in psychoanalysis which has been lost. Aida examines the contributions of psychoanalysis, emphasising the act of ‘dissociation’ (both healthy and unhealthy), with specific attention to the internalisation of the m/other/object as the ‘listening other’, and the dissociated part/s that may result in an over idealised yet feared object. Her main discussion focuses on how patients in therapy become able to transform fears into ‘psychic space’ and breaking away from vulnerability, by developing a better ‘sense of self’, as the result of having the therapists as the ‘listening other’. Aida consider the central theory of psychoanalysis as a form of treatment that enhances ‘resilience’ in relation in working with patients who have experienced trauma, by the mean of assessing relationship change in transference as an objective method of determining patience psychical alteration. In her book ‘Trauma, Torture and Dissociations: a Psychoanalytic View’, Aida provides a theoretical review of analytic thinking on trauma that will enrich practitioners from all approaches, as well as looking into the specific features that might identify those who would respond to such treatment.

Aida fotoDr Aida Alayarian MD BSc MSc DocSc PhD has been the Clinical Director and Chief Executive of the Refugee Therapy Centre since its inception in 1999. She has over thirty years of clinical and managerial experience, as well as campaigning for human rights (i.e. against torture, women’s rights and the protection of children). She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and and a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and is on the executive of the College of Psychoanalysis and Jungian Analysis of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy.

She has published extensively in the area of human rights, trauma and intercultural psychoanalytic psychotherapy, including Resilience, Creativity and Psychoanalysis: The Work of the Refugee Therapy Centre (2007); Psychological Consequences of Denial: The Armenian Genocide (2008); Torture, Trauma and Dissociation: A Psychoanalytic View (2011), The Handbook of Working with Trauma, Children and Torture (UKCP series 2014 in print).

Her publications have been informed by her work over the past 30 years with refugees and others whose basic human rights have been violated, identifying fundamental differences in how people react to trauma. Pursuing her primary question when working with people who have endured human right violation and atrocities — ‘What are the traits in the unconscious of the personality which enable some people to be resilient to the experience and lead fulfilling lives and others collapse psychologically?’—Dr Alayarian has explored the relationships between vulnerability and resilience and their roots in childhood experience. Her most recent published works have focused on what she terms ‘healthy dissociation’, the process by which traumatised individuals are able to dissociate from their traumata therefore leaving their worlds more or less intact.

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