Featured Conference Speaker- Laurie Ellington

Back by popular demand, Laurie Ellington will present on two sessions that examine addiction and trauma from a mind-body-brain perspective and how to empower clients and stakeholders in achieving successful treatment outcomes. A third session will focus on adolescents from a neurophysical perspective and examine the impacts of trauma on the developing nervous system.



L. Ellington 2022

Addicted to Love Part I:
The Power of Human Connection in Rewiring the Nervous System for Wellness

The gateway drug that leads to addiction is trauma. Trauma gets wired into the mind-brain-body system. Humans are biologically programmed to produce a cocktail of stress neurochemicals designed to activate a state of 'protection' for survival during traumatic experiences. When this flight-fight-freeze threat response is triggered, brain regions necessary for problem solving and inhibitory control over drug seeking behavior are shut down. People are not available for treatment in this physiological state. Cooperation with treatment is supported via activation of the social engagement system, also known as the mammalian caregiving system. The social engagement system is supported by the longest nerve in the human body, the vagus nerve. When this mammalian caregiving nerve is activated, a cocktail of neurotransmitters associated with feelings of love that promote social bonding, nurturing, emotional closeness, and social affiliation are released. This is a state of internal safety. Studies indicate stimulating this nerve may be useful for treating addiction. Research indicates addiction is rooted in the evolutionary nervous system mechanisms that promote the physiological state of safety, which is required for engagement in treatment, healing, and transformation. Connectedness and love are biological imperatives of which addicts are desperately seeking through drug use. A prolonged lack of connectedness is traumatic and damaging to the human brain. Understanding how to activate the physiological state of connectedness and safety that all humans are addicted to is a game changer for collaborative court leaders and practitioners.

This science-backed presentation draws on cutting edge breakthrough from modern neuroscience, mind-body research, epigenetics, trauma, and addiction. The human nervous system and the chemical states associated with creating the conditions for healing and change will be explored, along with tools for self and co-regulation crucial for engagement in treatment. A biofeedback demonstration of the nervous system's response to stress and the social engagement system will be included.

Addicted to Love Part II:
Brain-Based Group Coaching and Strategy Session

This session will be designed to dive deeper and expand on the content shared in the Addicted to Love: The Power of Human Connection in Rewiring the Nervous System for Wellness presentation. It will consist of neuroscience-based group coaching that will focus on empowering creative solutions to challenges collaborative court leaders and practitioners face in engaging clients as well as stakeholders in achieving successful treatment outcomes. Not only will this be a space for deeper self-awareness and reflection, it will also be an opportunity to apply insights learned from the presentation to collaborative court settings. There will be additional neuroscience insights shared and thought-provoking questions, along with strategies for breaking down the barriers to change from a neurophysiological perspective. Participants will walk away with an individualized action step created to move the learning forward and embed new neural circuitry associated with practice improvement.

Adolescence From the Inside Out:
Understanding Trauma and Behavior Through the Lens of Neurobiology

Adolescence is a sensitive and critical period of development for reorganization of regulatory systems. During this period of development, the emotional centers of the brain and signals from the body profoundly impact executive functioning. Because of this, there is great vulnerability as well as opportunity. This is particularly important in the context of trauma, which becomes embedded in the brain, mind, and body. An inner injury, trauma imprints itself into our neurobiology, leaving a footprint in the nervous system of the developing brain. Specific regions of the brain are activated along with changes in hormones and neurotransmitters. Prolonged activation of brain regions involved in the stress response and an ongoing release of neurochemicals associated with trauma reorganize the brain-mind-body system, resulting in a compromised ability to prepare for and adapt in the face of stress, adversity, and daily challenges.

This science-back presentation provides a description of the adolescent brain from an Integrative NeuroSomatic® perspective, which emphasizes the nature of trauma as being an internal wound that impacts multiple biological systems involved in human development. Findings from an array of scientific fields, including contemporary neuroscience, mind-body research, traumatology, polyvagal theory, and epigenetics will be shared. Tools for helping young people who have histories of developmental and complex trauma use safety and neuroplasticity to rewire their nervous systems for higher levels of self-regulation will be explored.