Trauma and the Struggle to Open Up: Relational Strategies to Treat Challenging Trauma Clients

New! Filmed Spring 2020

Presented by Robert T. Muller, Ph.D.

On-Demand | Available Now


12 Hours  |  Pre-approved for 12 CEUs


This On Demand course and will be available after purchase. Participants can watch, pause, and re-watch the sessions at their convenience.

All course content (certificate, videos) will be available until May 1, 2021. Extensions cannot be granted under any circumstances. 

Registration will close on April 1, 2021. 

SPECIAL OFFER Participants who register for this course are eligible to receive a FREE copy of Dr. Muller’s newest book, Trauma and the Struggle to Open Up. Retail value is $49.00.

To redeem your FREE book please email your shipping address and order number to once your registration has been processed. Please allow up to two weeks for shipping (additional delays may occur due to COVID-19). Free books are not eligible for refund or exchange. Offer eligible for shipping to Canadian addresses only. *Offer valid while supplies last.


This practical workshop, led by Dr. Robert T. Muller, a leading expert on trauma therapy and globally-acclaimed author of the psychotherapy bestsellers: Trauma & the Avoidant Client + Trauma and the Struggle to Open Up–is aimed at building your understanding of the psychotherapeutic relationship with challenging clients, particularly trauma clients. All clients present with some degree of traumatic affect, making this workshop suitable for all practitioners.

While many of us try to maintain a good therapeutic relationship, this can be difficult. Trauma clients struggle to trust the therapist; many minimize their own traumatic experiences, or become help-rejecting. Others rush into the work, seeking a “quick fix,” despite a long history of interpersonal trauma.

Through the lens of attachment theory, using a relational, integrative approach, Dr. Muller follows the ups and downs of the therapy relationship with trauma survivors. How do we tell when we’ve unknowingly compromised safety in the relationship? What happens to the relationship when clients or therapists rush into the process, and how can this be addressed? And how can subtle conflicts in the relationship become useful in treatment? Dr. Muller points to the different choices therapists make in navigating the relationship. In trauma therapy, those choices have a strong impact on outcome.

Recovering from trauma is a complicated process. When people reveal too much, too soon, they may feel worse. The pacing of therapy is critical. Here too, the key is in the therapist-client relationship. Dr. Muller walks you through the relational approaches that help pace the process of opening up – so that people find the experience helpful, not harmful.

Throughout the workshop, theory is complemented by case examples, practical exercises, and segments from Dr. Muller’s own treatment sessions. This workshop focuses on clinical skills that are directly applicable in your work as therapists. You will learn specific skills to ensure ethical practice with all clients.

Online Course Format

  • Live Stream
  • 12 CEUs
  • 12 Hours of content

  1. Opening up about the trauma: A relational process
    • When the expectation is to stay silent about the past: You mustn’t tell anyone!
      • Guarding the family secret
      • When loyalty prevails
      • How clients protect themselves from their own history
    • How trauma stories “leak out” with the therapist
      • Trauma fragments appear unannounced
      • Clients only want to stay silent for so long
    • Client avoidance of the past, painful feelings, and relationships
      • It’s hard to show vulnerability, even with the therapist
    • Mutual avoidance: When client and therapist avoid: This trauma is too scary to handle!
  2. How to pace the process of opening up (considering many clients have limited access to funds): The dangers of rushing into trauma work yet providing encouragement to open up once the therapeutic relationship is prepared
    • When the client rushes in:
      • Strategies to provide containment
      • When the client rushes to forgive the perpetrator
    • When the therapist rushes into trauma work, and unknowingly undermines the process
      • Wanting to rescue the client brings the “quick fix”
      • Therapists export the “quick fix”
  1. Strategies to bring a sense of safety to the therapeutic relationship
    • Taking the client’s suffering seriously: Sounds easy! It isn’t.
    • Naming client traumatic experiences
      • When the client disagrees: “I’m no victim!”
    • Validating client traumatic experiences
      • When the client doesn’t accept validation so readily
      • Naming and validating client traumatic experiences: A therapeutic process
    • Honesty in the therapeutic relationship: Easier said than done
    • Negotiating change from the start helps bring containment and hopefulness
      • The NAT: Helping the client articulate and imagine themselves as different
  1. Helping clients mourn traumatic losses: A relational process
    • Bringing emotion into the work
    • How mourning brings post-traumatic growth
      • Facing a lost childhood
      • A changed worldview
      • A changed view of self
  1. Navigating and using conflict in the therapeutic relationship
    • The relationship can easily go off the rails: When enactments bring ruptures
      • Ruptures always blindside the therapist
      • Ruptures are a big deal in trauma therapy
    • How to repair a ruptured alliance
      • How the therapist should look inside
      • Relational first response: Validating the client’s experience
      • Providing containment around the conflict
      • Helping the client mentalize: Unpacking the conflict
  1. Beyond the trauma: Reclaiming identity
    • When trauma dominates identity
    • Helping clients reclaim intentionality, dignity, personal values
  1. Navigate and use conflicts in the relationship
  2. Bring safety to the therapeutic relationship early on
  3. Help clients pace the process of opening up
  4. Recognize their own (therapist) feelings in the treatment (eg, the wish to rush into trauma work, or the wish to avoid it)
  5. Help clients mourn traumatic losses to bring post-traumatic growth

Clinical Professionals: All mental health professionals including, but not limited to Clinical Counsellors, Psychologists, Psychotherapists, Social Workers, Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Hospice and Palliative Care Workers, School Counsellors, Youth Workers, Mental Health Workers, Addiction Specialists, Marital & Family Therapists, Speech Language Pathologists, Vocational Rehabilitation Consultants and all professionals looking to enhance their therapeutic skills.

Robert T. Muller, Ph.D., C.Psych. is on faculty as a Full Professor of Clinical Psychology at York University, is a Fellow of the International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation (ISSTD); and both of his books have won ISSTD’s award for the best written work of the year on trauma.  He has over thirty years of clinical experience in the field, and maintains an active private practice in downtown Toronto. Throughout his professional career, Dr. Muller has been practicing, teaching, and supervising in the areas of trauma, attachment, and psychotherapy. He is the author of the award-winning psychotherapy bestseller, Trauma and the Avoidant Client: Attachment-Based Strategies for Healing, published by Norton Press. In addition, he has authored numerous scholarly articles, book chapters, and grants, and is currently lead investigator in a provincially-funded, multi-site program for the assessment and treatment of intra-familial trauma. He completed his clinical training at Harvard University, and has been active in the field since then.

Trauma and the Avoidant Client is available for purchase on Amazon.

For more information on trauma and mental health please visit Dr. Muller’s blog Talking about Trauma and the online magazine The Trauma and Mental Health Report.

Dr. Muller’s newest book is entitled Trauma and the Struggle to Open Up, and it’s about how to navigate the psychotherapy relationship with challenging trauma clients. This book is available purchase on Amazon.

RegistrationEarly bird FeeRegular Fee
Individual Enrollment$469.00N/A
Full-Time Student$379.00N/A

All fees are in Canadian dollars ($CAD).

For group and/or student rates please view our Terms & Conditions and contact for more information and registration. 

  • Canadian Psychological Association
    The Alberta College of Social Workers (ACSW) and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Social Workers (NLASW) accept CPA-approved continuing education credits