The Alarm Spectrum

Presented by Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D.

On-Demand | Available Now


6 Hours  |   Pre-approved for 6 CEUs


This is an On Demand course. Participants can watch, pause, and re-watch the sessions at their convenience.

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

Registration will close on September 1, 2021.

The surge of anxiety in today’s society certainly begs for an explanation. To make sense of anxiety is to make sense of ourselves and vice versa. There is probably no human problem that has been more of a riddle, yet more significant.

In taking a relational-developmental approach to joining the dots, and armed with fresh insights from neuroscience, Dr. Neufeld reveals a complex human alarm system that can give rise not only to anxiety but also to a diverse array of seemingly unrelated syndromes and symptoms deceptively devoid of feelings of nervousness. This alarm spectrum covers a vast amount of troubling territory, affecting the majority of our children and youth as well as adults. The good news is that once we understand how these syndromes come to be, we are also more informed as to how they can be reversed.

This fresh perspective on an age-old problem serves as a refreshing alternative to the medical disorder approach as well as the rational-emotive and cognitive approaches. The implications are profound.  In uncovering the root causes of these problems, Dr. Neufeld also paves the way for natural and intuitive interventions that can be put into practice in any venue and at any age. Although the manifest symptoms are indeed epidemic and diverse, the path through to making a difference is surprisingly singular, simple and achievable.

The six-hour course is divided into four sessions of approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes in length plus a 40 minute supplement on social anxiety.


Session One – The alarm system and how it works

Of the typical twelve or so ‘systems’ usually referred to in biology, the alarm system is by far the most complex and least understood. There is however enough information today to join the dots, revealing one of the most vulnerable and impactful systems of the human body. We all are profoundly affected by the alarm system, whether we know it or not. Knowing the purpose and workings of a well-functioning alarm system sets the stage for understanding what can go wrong and why. An underlying theme in the first session is the role of language in accessing intuitive understanding.


Session Two – The three classic syndromes of the alarm spectrum

Once the main dynamics in the alarm system are understood, they can be charted in a continuum of interacting forces, resulting in the three classic syndromes of the alarm spectrum that we see manifest in childhood and across the lifespan. The main features of each of these syndromes is presented, along with their tell-tale signs and symptoms. Many of the traits we attribute to personality are reversible derivatives of these alarm-based syndromes.


Session Three – The three root causes of escalating alarm in today’s society

By all accounts, alarm seems to be surging in our society, along with the corresponding alarm-based syndromes in its wake. In this session, we trace the rising alarm in today’s society to three root problems in the attachment infrastructure and the emotional dynamics in society at large and in any individual in particular. Understanding the sources of alarm sets the stage for addressing alarm, both in our homes and classes as well as in any individual person.


Session Four – The most promising interventions for alarm-based problems  

Most interventions, whether medical, cognitive or behavioural, and whether we are aware of it or not, are attempts to turn off alarm or numb its effects. Unfortunately, effectiveness in symptom reduction can also drive compulsions and addictions. Recommendations are made for the safest and most effect methods of alarm reduction and symptom management. The focus however is on two types of interventions that hold the most promise for reducing alarm at its source as well as for helping our brains process alarm and helping ourselves resolve our alarm. These interventions are compared to the prevailing interventions in the field.


Supplement on Social Anxiety 

In this supplement, we use the material presented in the previous sessions as a foundation for taking a closer look at the territory of social anxiety and related problems. In particular, we contrast a medical disorder approach to this natural model of alarm. We also take a closer look at shyness as an attachment dynamic and tease it apart from alarm as a significant dynamic in social anxiety. The approach to social anxiety can differ significantly when shyness is perceived to be the primary operating dynamic. Specific syndromes discussed include performance anxiety, test anxiety, imaginary audience syndrome, selective mutism and agoraphobia.

  • how the human alarm system is meant to work
  • the importance of de-pathologizing alarm and its effects
  • the importance of language and reframing in insight and intervention
  • the classic themes of most alarm-based obsessions
  • an understanding of anxiety as the conscious tip of a complex alarm system
  • an appreciation of how facing separation is the primary cause of alarm
  • an understanding of the three classic syndromes of the alarm spectrum
  • the distinctiveness of relational and play-based interventions
  • the role of shyness in social anxiety and related problems including performance anxiety, test anxiety, selective mutism and agoraphobia
  • why traditional interventions for non-anxious forms of alarm-based problems will backfire
  • how the alarm system is meant to develop and in particular, the role of play in its development and recalibration
  • how discipline problems can result from alarm system dysfunction
  • why some are conscientious, careful and concerned, and others not at all
  • the three natural resolutions to alarm and how to foster them
  • the role of courage in alarm, including the problem of the dragon and the treasure
  • why some feel anxious instead of alarmed and others are alarmed without feeling any anxiety whatsoever
  • how peer orientation contributes to escalating alarm
  • the escalating relationship of alpha and alarm
  • how to differentiate between the attributes of a syndrome and the traits of true personality

Education and Clinical Professionals: K–12 Classroom Teachers, School Counsellors/Psychologists, Learning Assistance/ Resource Teachers, School Administrators, School Paraprofessionals including Special Education Assistants, Classroom Assistants and Childcare Workers. All other professionals who support students including but not limited to: Nurses, Social Workers, Psychologists, Clinical Counsellors, Family Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech Language Pathologists, Addiction Counsellors, Youth Workers, Mental Health Workers, Probation Officers, and Early Childhood Educators.

Parents, Caregiver, Foster Parents, Grandparents, and Extended Family raising a child.

Dr. Gordon Neufeld is a Vancouver-based developmental psychologist with over 45 years of experience with children and youth and those responsible for them. A foremost authority on child development, Dr. Neufeld is an international speaker, a bestselling author (Hold On To Your Kids) and a leading interpreter of the developmental paradigm. Dr. Neufeld has a widespread reputation for making sense of complex problems and for opening doors for change. While formerly involved in university teaching and private practice, he now devotes his time to teaching and training others, including educators and helping professionals. His Neufeld Institute is now a world-wide charitable organization devoted to applying developmental science to the task of raising children. Dr. Neufeld appears regularly on radio and television. He is a father of five and a grandfather to six.

RegistrationEarly bird FeeRegular Fee
Individual Enrollment$249.00N/A
Full-Time Student$199.00N/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