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ARC. Attachment, Self Regulation and Competency “Children, Trauma and an Introduction to the ARC Model”. Overview. Why ARC Brain discussion ARC pyramid explained Other ARC Information Discussion Questions. Why ARC?. How does the child’s behavior make sense? Given that how can we help?

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Attachment, Self Regulation and Competency

“Children, Trauma and an Introduction to the ARC Model”


  • Why ARC

  • Brain discussion

  • ARC pyramid explained

  • Other ARC Information

  • Discussion

  • Questions

Why arc
Why ARC?

How does the child’s behavior make sense?

Given that how can we help?

How do I keep going?

How do we as a team stay strong?

When its not working
When its not working

  • Little S*** Syndrome

    - At the store screaming “you’re the worst parent in the world, I hate you”, cutting up mom’s new dress, punching classmate Suzy for no apparent reason… etc

  • Ungrateful Little S*** Syndrome

    - We work really hard…

  • Little S*** and Big S*** Syndrome

    - Blaming each other

Brain …

  • How the brain works

  • The Alarm System

  • Complex vs. simple trauma

  • Developmental


  • Effects of trauma

    on the brain

  • Snowball effect

Evolution of the brain neuroplasticity
Evolution of the BrainNeuroplasticity

The reason to have some brain knowledge is:

  • To help direct therapy

  • To help the system or parts of the system hold still through the bad weather and the long journey through the seemingly trackless forest

The brain is an architectural organ
The brain is an architectural organ

  • Bottom to top, inside to outside

  • Interconnected hierarchical regions

  • Architectural snowball

The brain is an historical organ
The brain is an historical organ

  • Neurons that fire together wire together – Donald Hebb 1949

  • Taxi drivers in London - hippocampus

The brain is a relational organ
The brain is a relational organ

- Failure to thrive

- Developmental Neglect

The brain is a plastic organ

- Younger, more plastic, more vulnerable, more amenable to therapeutic re-organization

- Older…

Neurosequential model of therapeutics
Neurosequential model of therapeutics

  • What were the adverse events?

  • How severe?

  • How old was the person?

  • Relational history – How stable and protective?

Brain body the alarm system
Brain/body:The Alarm System

(Paraphrased from Buddha’s Brain – the practical neuroscience of happiness, wisdom and love by Rick Hanson)

Triggering Event

  • Amygdala

    • Sounds the alarm

  • Thalamus (relay station in the middle of the brain)

    • sends wake up signal to brain stem


  • Brain Stem

    • Releases norepinephrine (adrenaline) throughout the brain

  • Sympathetic nervous system (SNS)

    • Sends signals to major organs and muscle groups getting them ready for fight, flight or freeze. Primary regulator of the endocrine system

    • Alerts pituitary gland


  • Pituitary Gland

    • Sends signal to adrenal gland

  • Adrenal Gland

    • Releases stress hormones epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol

      All this has taken one or 2 seconds after the initial alarm. The brain is on red alert, the SNS is lit up like a Christmas tree, stress hormones are washing through the body and it is ready for action.

Adrenaline and norepinephrine
Adrenaline and Norepinephrine

  • Heart rate up

  • Pupils dilate

  • Blood is directed to large muscle groups

  • Bronchioles of lungs dilate


  • Suppresses immune system

  • Revs up stress reaction

    • Causes brain stem to stimulate amygdale which then activates the SNS and the HPAA (Hypothalamic/pituitary/adrenal axis) which produces more Cortisol.

    • Suppresses hippocampol activity (which normally inhibits the amygdale). This takes the brakes off the amygdala which then produces more cortisol.

    • Shuts down the reproductive (sex drive) system

    • Digestion slows way down – salivation decreases, peristalsis slows down (dry mouth and constipation).


  • Emotions intensify – mobilizing, organizing and focusing the whole brain for action


  • SNS/HPAA arousal stimulates the amygdala which is hard-wired to focus on negative information and react intensely and to it. (Sets us up for fear and anger)

Runaway car
Runaway Car

  • As limbic and endocrine system rev up the relative strength of the prefrontal cortex goes down. Now we have a car with a stuck accelerator and the driver has less control over it.


  • Appraising situations and attributions of other’s intentions are pushed to the negative. “Now the driver of the careening car thinks that everybody else is an idiot.”


  • Developed by…

  • Why does ARC work for treating complex trauma?

  • Main Ideas, 10 building blocks and the ARC pyramid

  • Fitting it into YOUR practice, staying true to the inner therapist

Attachment self regulation and competency framework
Attachment, Self- Regulation, and Competency framework

ARC Developed by

  • Kristine M. Kinneburgh, LICSW

  • Margaret E. Blaustein, Ph.D.

  • The Trauma Center at JRI

    * 2 day ARC training with Margaret Blaustein on October 18th and 19th at Lake Morey

    Blaustein & Kinneburgh, 2010; Kinneburg & Blaustein, 2005

10 building blocks

Trauma Experience Integration

Dev’tal Tasks

Dev’tal Tasks

Executive Functions

Self Dev’t & Identity

Affect Expression

Affect Identification

Affect Modulation

Routines and Rituals

Caregiver Affect Mgmt.


Consistent Response

10 Building Blocks

Treating complex trauma
Treating Complex Trauma

Requires an intervention that:

  • Addresses a continuum of exposures (layers of chronic and acute), which includes ongoing exposure

  • Is embedded in a social/contextual framework

  • Is sensitive to individual developmental competencies and deficits, and flexible in its approach

  • Addresses individual, familial, and systemic needs and strengths

    Blaustein & Kinneburgh, 2010; Kinneburg & Blaustein, 2005

Arc framework key components
ARC Framework: Key Components

  • 3 Core Domains key to healthy development

  • 10 Foundational Building Blocks

  • Flexible/ creative implementation

  • Child, family, and system specific goals

  • Active involvement of caregivers and larger system

  • Collaborative/ transparent intervention

  • Sleep, Nutrition and Exercise – Hierarchy of Needs

    Blaustein & Kinneburgh, 2010; Kinneburg & Blaustein, 2005