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Trauma-Informed Practice Training: the Role of Emotions in Somatic Symptoms

April 22 @ 12:00 pm - 7:00 pm


**Please note: this works workshop is designed for mental health and other healthcare professionals who are registered with a licensed body/association.

Also, because we will be reviewing videotaped clinical examples, and due to the confidential nature of material delivered, a confidentiality waiver must be signed.

A confidentiality waiver will be sent out to attendees, by the organizer, prior to the start of the workshop and must be signed and returned/received by the organizer prior to the start of the workshop.



We are very excited to welcome back, Dr. Ange Cooper who is a Registered Clinical Psychologist and an ISTDP therapist, teacher, and trainer, originally from the UK. She is also the inaugural Assistant Dean of Wellness for the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University. She will present on “The Role of Emotions in Functional Somatic Symptoms”. This event is a follow up to her first workshop with us in 2017 at the University of British Columbia, and in 2016 at the National Family Medicine Conference in Vancouver.

The psychological and emotional factors involved in physical health and wellbeing are becoming increasingly important to understand. Research now demonstrates the intimate connection between trauma, adverse childhood experiences, how the brain processes strong emotions, and the impact on the body’s immune, nervous, and hormonal systems.

When emotions automatically trigger the fight/flight/freeze response in the body, persistent physical and emotional symptoms (such as headache, fatigue, chronic pain, gastrointestinal disturbances, anxiety and depression) can result. Traditional medical investigations are often unable to detect the causes of these somatic symptoms.

Dr. Cooper, will provide an overview of the assessment and treatment of functional somatic symptoms using an evidence-based psychotherapy approach known as Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP).

In the News:

Dec 2018 Globe and Mail: Globe and Mail article

Oct 2021 CBC Interview with Dr. Alan Abbass Role of Emotions in Health, Dalhousie Research CBC interview with Dr. Abbass



Clients/Patients with FSS often present with somatic difficulties for which investigations fail to reveal any pathology. The blockage of healthy emotional processes is thought to result in altered autonomic, endocrine, and immune system activity related to the development of these somatic conditions. If the psychological and emotional factors underlying these conditions are not addressed and only standard medical treatment is applied, it can lead to multiple and unnecessary biological investigations, medication trials and specialty referrals.

This workshop will start with an overview of Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy in treating Functional Somatic Symptoms. This will include an understanding of the emotional, psychological, and physiological impact of trauma at various stages of the lifespan. You will learn the key meta-psychological principles underpinning the approach as well as how these principles guide treatment interventions. These principles will be demonstrated with video examples as well as experiential exercises to examine the role that emotional factors play.

Following this, we will review 3 patient cases that demonstrate 3 different FSS alongside treatment approaches that are tailored to get to the emotional root of the presenting problem. These examples will demonstrate the key assessment and treatment phases within the ISTDP approach.


This workshop will help build your skills in:


  • The assessment of 3 anxiety pathways and how they map onto different physical symptoms
  • The assessment of 3 systems of resistance that pose barriers to effective treatment
  • Applying tailored interventions based on the client’s/patient’s response to intervention, including pressure to emotional experiencing, regulating anxiety states, and restructuring systems of resistance in order to facilitate deep emotional experiences
  • Understanding and making use of transference and counter transference reactions
  • Enhanced awareness of your own unconscious processes in order to increase your therapeutic effectiveness




Dr. Angela Cooper:

Dr. Cooper is a Registered Clinical Psychologist and an ISTDP therapist, teacher, and trainer, originally from the UK. She is also the inaugural Assistant Dean of Wellness for the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University. During her collaboration between the Centre for Emotions and Health, and Dalhousie’s Department of Family Medicine she enhanced her burgeoning interest in the assessment and treatment of patients with functional somatic symptoms (FSS). Dr. Cooper completed a three-year pilot project to highlight the potential clinical and cost benefits of providing brief talking therapies for FSS in a primary care setting, resulting in her publication here: Implementing a Psychotherapy Service for Medically Unexplained Symptoms in a Primary Care Setting

Dr. Cooper is incredibly passionate about developing and enhancing the emotional capacities of healthcare professionals. By building clinicians’ emotional resilience, she hopes to reduce stress, burnout and medical errors as well as improve the relationship between patient and healthcare provider. For more info: https://medicine.dal.ca/departments/department-sites/psychiatry/our-people/cross-appointed-faculty/angela-cooper.html



Trish Walsh BA, MTC – for more info please see: www.trishwalsh.ca