Breaking the Cycle: Application of Cyclical Psychodynamic Theory to Intergenerational Patterns of Complex Trauma

Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Paper

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Jennifer Erickson Cornish

Second Advisor

Judith E. Fox

Third Advisor

Brian Beaumund


Trauma, Adults, Psychodynamics


Experiences of abuse, neglect, and violence in childhood continue to be a public health concern affecting children at a rate of 8.9 per 1,000 children in the US (Child Welfare information Gateway, 2021). Such adverse experiences have significant impacts in adulthood and are shown to have an intergenerational component (Yehuda et al., 2005, 2006, 2009). Clinical approaches for adults with complex trauma rarely specifically attend to intergenerational patterns in treatment or provide recommendations for working individually with adult survivors. Cyclical Psychodynamics (CP), an integrative treatment approach that helps identify and shift cyclical patterns of behaviors, is uniquely equipped to address the cyclical nature of Intergenerational Complex Trauma (ICT) in adults. This paper reviews the complex and intergenerational trauma literature, outlines the theoretical orientation and treatment application of CP, and proposes an adapted CP treatment model that integrates core elements of trauma-focused treatment and considerations for ICT. Three case illustrations are presented to demonstrate the application of a trauma-focused CP (TF-CP) approach for adults in the context of ICT. This paper aims to provide a foundation for future research and clinical work in this area.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


35 pgs

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