Navigating Countertransference with Ritually Abused Clients

Survivors of ritual abuse and mind control are stepping forward in unprecedented numbers on social media and revealing themselves in therapy settings. These clients are almost universally engineered with techniques that involve creation of polyfragmented Dissociative Identity Disorder. Treating such clients requires a high degree of skill, especially in forming and maintaining a caring treatment relationship. In many cases these clients have been conditioned to accept that they are unloveable and untreatable. Their experiences are extreme and highly traumatic. In some cases their handlers (abusers) have even mimicked psychologists and/or psychiatrists creating aversive conditioning to therapy itself. 

Therapists of these clients are challenged with intense visceral reactions to both disclosures of unimaginable abuse and the extreme dysregulation these clients can display in and out of sessions. Their stories and behavior will push all the countertransference buttons from extreme maternal sympathy to horror and revulsion. This is advanced practice!

Ideally therapists help these dissociative clients develop a strong attachment to their treater that can weather the ups and downs of extreme trauma work. Yet each therapist has thresholds of affect tolerance and belief that affect their clinical ability to stay connected to clients and help process catastrophic experiences. This workshop focuses on: growing relational ability in the therapist, techniques to hear and respond effectively to extreme trauma disclosures, and increasing mindfulness of countertransference reactions from moment to moment without shutting down or acting out. Effective therapeutic apology and other reparative strategies are presented for working through the inevitable ruptures of attachment in trauma therapy when countertransference gets away from us. 

This session was originally presented as a live webinar in October 2019.


Target Audience


Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this webinar participants will be able to:

  • Name three common ways that therapists compromise patient attachment in trauma treatment
  • Identify and utilize evidence-based session rating metrics in their clinical practices
  • Deliver an effective apology that rehabilitates and strengthens attachment in the therapy setting
  • Respond compassionately to traumatic or unbelievable disclosures in a way that does not rupture the attachment to the treater and facilitates a greater holding environment for the treatment
  • Identify areas of countertransference that include thresholds of belief, spirituality and horror in themselves and neutralize reactivity that could cause a rupture in attachment in treatment
Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 1.50 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 1.50 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.
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Presenter: Susan Pease Banitt, LCSW
Presenter Biography: Susan Pease Banitt, LCSW is a psychotherapist and author who specializes in the treatment of severe trauma and PTSD. She has worked in the field of mental health for more than four decades and has written two award-winning books: Wisdom, Attachment and Love in Trauma Therapy: Beyond Evidence-Based Practice (Routledge, 2018) and The Trauma Tool Kit: Healing PTSD From the Inside Out (Quest, 2012). Susan lives and practices in Portland, Oregon.

Available Credit

  • 1.50 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 1.50 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.


ISSTD Member cost:
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"Your Price" above reflects your final price based on your membership status and career level. 

  • ISSTD defines a student as those enrolled in a program of study leading to a degree or certification in the mental health field and who have an interest in trauma and dissociation. 
  • ISSTD defines an emerging professional as mental health professionals who have completed an advanced degree and are in the first three years of their career (or first three years after graduation for researchers).
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