Understanding and Treating Chronic Shame in Complex Trauma


Chronic shame often underlies stuck places and lack of progress in therapy, and is an enduring problem in clients who have experienced complex trauma. By its very nature, shame is hidden from others, including the therapist, and is difficult to acknowledge. Shame is re-experienced in similar ways as traumatic memories, with symptoms of intrusion, avoidance and arousal, and thus must be approached carefully within a window of tolerance of the client. Therapists often feel they do not have sufficient skills to address shame effectively, as it is so powerful, embedded, alienating and disconnecting. Talking about shame is often an ineffective strategy by itself. We will explore several functions of shame, distinctions between shame and guilt, and how chronic shame may perpetuate other symptoms or problems. A practical integration of cognitive, emotional, relational and somatic interventions to resolve chronic shame will be discussed. We will also explore specific “antidotes” to shame, as well as ways to help clients (and therapists) develop resilience to shame reactions. Most importantly, we will examine how to bewith shame – our own and our clients – with curiosity and compassion, finding ways to create a safe relational space in which to deeply attune with and repair our client’s chronic shame.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the several functions of shame, and the difference between healthy and chronic shame.
  • Discuss at least four reasons why people may develop chronic shame.
  • List the four defensive scripts described in the Compass of Shame, and identify them in yourself and a client.
  • Employ at least three cognitive, three emotional, and three somatic interventions to diminish chronic shame.
  • Describe the physiology of shame and how to work with it.
  • List at least three ways to support the development of shame resilience in ourselves and our clients.

Continuing Education Credit – 6 Hours

  • APA – Avant Training is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Avant Training maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
  • GSCSW –  This workshop is approved for CORE CE hours through the Georgia Society for Clinical Social Work.
  • LPC, LMFT- Related hours


Out of stock