Helping damaged people manage their chaotic emotions

Dr Jennifer Clegg

A dazed-looking child walks toward a parent or carer, before conflict between their simultaneous need to both approach and retreat makes them freeze or collapse. Such odd ways of relating to others reveal the Disorganised attachments that underpin chaotic emotions. Disorganised children often develop volatile relationships in adulthood that seem to say: Help Me! But I won’t let you! This presentation is grounded in clinical work with distressed or disturbed adults with intellectual disabilities, and in attachment research. Observing that Trauma-Informed Care’s original focus on helping people to manage dysregulated emotions virtually disappeared when it entered intellectual disability, it develops an argument about why that might be and what it reveals about the field. Focussing on emotions rather than behaviour, it considers how people engender moments of meeting that heal.


Dr Jennifer Clegg is Adjunct Professor, La Trobe University, Australia, & Honorary Associate Professor, University of Nottingham UK. She has been a long-term member and sometime office-holder of both the BPS History and Philosophy of Psychology Section, and of IASSIDD’s Ethics SIRG which she currently co-chairs. Until 2015 she also worked as a Consultant Clinical Psychologist supporting adults with ID who were acutely distressed or disturbed. Publications include empirical research into child-adult transition, and conceptual research concerning attachment, history, and ethics of practice. She is Editor of the Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability.