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‘Not dead … abandoned’ – a clinical case study of childhood and combat-related trauma

Challenor, J. (2017). ‘Not dead … abandoned’ – a clinical case study of childhood and combat-related trauma. European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling, 19(1), pp. 6-21. doi: 10.1080/13642537.2017.1289967


This clinical case study examines inter-subjective processes with a counselling client who presented with symptoms of complex trauma including severe anxiety, low mood, dissociation and suicidality. Therapy lasted 12 months and the ending was unplanned. Psychoanalytic and phenomenological hermeneutic frameworks are drawn on in theorizing the work. From this perspective, loss associated with trauma is conceptualized as relational, as traumatic states threaten psychological organization and the continuing experience of relational ties that are needed for survival.

Dissociation is understood as a defensive state that changes the way that temporality is experienced. The client’s capacity for dissociation appeared to have developed in early childhood in response to physical abuse, predisposing him to further ongoing and severe trauma as an adult soldier. There will be a focus on the way that dissociation and enactment in the therapeutic relationship limited the therapist’s capacity to provide the client with inter-subjective regulation of disavowed affect. The client’s unconscious experience of unbearable affect led to a breakdown of the therapeutic relationship and the termination of therapy.

Detailed session and supervision notes, and correspondence received from the client were used to evaluate theory and practice links, as well as some methodological aspects of case study research.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling, available online:
Publisher Keywords: Trauma; dissociation; enactment; inter-subjective systems theory; relational psychoanalysis
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of J Challenor Case study for EJCP Author final version.pdf]
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