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George Lianos, MB BS, FRANZCP, MM(Psychotherapy)

VMO, Westmead Hospital, Sydney, Australia



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040.3 – Complex Trauma in the 21st Century: a Conversational Model perspective

Symposium Paper 3: The Conversational Model: An Evolving Therapeutic Approach to Relational Trauma

Sunday, November 29

2:20 PM - 2:40 PM

Room: Ballroom 1 & 2

Speaker(s):

George Lianos, MB BS, FRANZCP, MM(Psychotherapy)

VMO, Westmead Hospital, Sydney, Australia

In 1977 Russell Meares and Robert Hobson wrote a paper called The Persecutory Therapist (1) where they reviewed some unintended constrictions or limitations of classical psychoanalytic therapies. They proposed a tentative relational solution that could alleviate the situation.


In the following three decades an approach was developed both in Australia (a truly multicultural environment) and the UK that came to known as the Conversational Model (2, 3, 4). This approach:



  1. Was scientific in its aspirations (its aim was to have methodologies and goals that could be quantified, measured and tested) It became one of a few approaches that was tested with the Borderline Personality Disorders and demonstrated to have a statistically beneficial effect (5,6,7).

  2. Used relevant findings from all relevant disciplines that continue to inform the practice of analytic therapies. (Philosophy, Chaos and Complexity Theory, Anthropology, Sociology, Linguistics, Infant research and developmental Psychology, Neuropsychiatry, Neuropsychology, Neuroimageing, Psychoanalysis, Psychotherapy, Trauma studies, Attachment theory and Literature)

  3. Developed a tripartite notion of self, based on Jamesian notions. Within this approach self is an intrinsically relational experience created and disrupted through the use of particular forms of language (the minute particulars) that either inhibit or enhance forms of relatedness that allow for the emergence of different forms of consciousness and thus a sense of self.

  4. Socio-culturally derived, embedded and expressed in the therapeutic context through each participants “expectational field” (assumptions/transference).


 As a process model The Conversational Model has demonstrated that it can respond constructively to the demands of an ever-changing broader culture by integrating the recent findings from trauma, memory and linguistics research in an apparently seamless and practical manner and meet the multicultural challenges of the global village.


This paper will focus on the relationship between trauma and the Conversational Model.