Evaluating the Utility of MFT Models in the Treatment of Trauma: Implications for Affect Regulation


Affect regulation, MFT theory, Trauma, Family therapy


The purpose of this paper is to discuss polyvagal theory as a theoretical foundation for helping clinicians more effectively treat clients who have experienced major trauma. More specifically, we emphasize that through the use of both modern and post-modern models, marriage and family therapists may use emotion regulation strategies to assist clients in overcoming the negative repercussions of traumatic events. We suggest that the nature of emotional arousal which accompanies trauma alters the physical process by which the body regulates future affective stimuli in ways that are potentially detrimental to human relationships. We then offer a discussion of how a selection of MFT models contain strategies that promote reconnection to self and others that should be utilized with greater precision, ultimately to target the physiological symptoms of trauma-altered emotion regulation processes. Finally, we discuss the need for more specific, process-oriented research that integrates cross-disciplinary theory to contribute to a more intricate and useful understanding of the treatment of trauma in the relational context.

Original Publication Citation

Banford Witting, A.,& Jensen, J., Brown, M. (2016). Evaluating the utility of MFT modelsin the treatment of trauma: Implications for affect regulation. Contemporary Family Therapy, DOI: 10.1007/s10591-016-9387-5

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL



Contemporary Family Journal




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor