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Mental Health, Ill Health and Personality Disorder

We are delighted to announce that Professor George Vaillant, internationally renowned Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who was for 32 years the Programme Director of the longitudinal Harvard Study of Adult Development will give the keynote address at the ‘Mental Health, Ill Health and Personality Disorder’ national conference, which is aimed at all professionals interested in psychotherapeutic interventions for adults with particular underlying patterns of emotional regulation, expression of distress and interpersonal relating.

Individuals with difficulties in these areas can attract a range of diagnoses. They frequently present to primary care with chronic anxiety, depression and somatising disorders. They can sometimes be given diagnoses of developmental disorders such as Autistic Spectrum Disorders and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in adulthood. Where their difficulties are severe, they are often diagnosed with ‘personality disorders’. 

Drawing on research, clinical practice and theory, this conference will provide a crucial but often poorly understood psychodynamic perspective on individuals presenting with these types of complex chronic mental health issues. By highlighting the links between good mental health, ill health, psychopathology, and personality it will promote a deeper understanding of the elements of effective psychological and social interventions in this population.

Professor Vaillant’s extended keynote address will focus on one of the most profound lessons from his ground-breaking research on development across the lifespan; namely, that any exploration of the links between positive mental health and psychopathology requires an understanding of adaptive involuntary coping – the so-called ‘mature defence mechanisms’. 

“...Any exploration of the links between positive mental health and psychopathology requires an understanding of adaptive coping... Much of what is called mental illness is in fact the manifestation of an individual’s adaptive response to conflict...” 
Professor George Vaillant, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School

“...Professor Vaillant’s work brilliantly integrates developmental, psychiatric, and psychodynamic perspectives to provide a deeper understanding of mental health and ill health. He presents with startling clarity decades of fascinating research which illustrate the manifestations of psychological defences across an individual’s lifespan. This conference will draw out the lessons from this work in terms of how health professionals and services can support individuals towards more adaptive coping...”
Dr. Myooran Canagaratnam, Consultant Psychiatrist at the Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust

Professor Vaillant will be speaking alongside a number of expert clinicians from the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. Through exploring theory, case studies, and clinical research, speakers will integrate developmental, psychiatric and psychodynamic perspectives, drawing on years of accumulated clinical expertise with specialist patient groups.

A range of learning outcomes including: 

  • Understanding of how mental health and functioning changes across adulthood, and its relationship to underlying defence mechanisms 
  • How psychodynamic perspectives can enhance understanding of the presentation of individuals with complex issues including developmental conditions in adulthood, chronic depression, anxiety and somatising disorders presenting to primary care, and personality disorders, including borderline personality disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder. 
  • The effectiveness of specific psychotherapeutic interventions in these populations including psychodynamic therapy, and psychodynamically orientated interventions in primary care, and mentalisation based therapy.

“…The broad reach of psychoanalysis is not unrelated to its manner of approaching mental disorder, where the dividing line between normality and abnormality is less clear and more complex…it is as a direct consequence of its range that psychoanalysis has so much to contribute to the understanding and treatment of mental illness…”
Dr. David Bell, Consultant Psychiatrist at the Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust 


The conference is due to be held on 23rd June 2016 at the ICO Conference Centre, London 

The programme has been written and produced in partnership with The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. 

Reading list of some of Professor Vaillants publications:

1.Adaptive mental mechanisms: Their role in a positive psychology.
Vaillant, George E.; American Psychologist, Vol 55(1), Jan, 2000 Special Issue: Positive Psychology. pp. 89-98. Publisher: American Psychological Association; [Journal Article], Database: PsycINFO

2. Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or cure?
Vaillant, George E.; Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Vol 39(6), Jun, 2005 pp. 431-436. Publisher: Blackwell Publishing; [Journal Article], Database: PsycINFO

3. An empirically validated hierarchy of defense mechanisms.
Vaillant, George E.; Bond, Michael; Vaillant, Caroline O.; Archives of General Psychiatry, Vol 43(8), Aug, 1986 pp. 786-794. Publisher: American Medical Assn; [Journal Article], Database: PsycINFO

4. Ego mechanisms of defense and personality psychopathology.
Vaillant, George E.; Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol 103(1), Feb, 1994 Special Issue: Personality and Psychopathology. pp. 44-50. Publisher: American Psychological Association; [Journal Article], Database: PsycINFO

5. Lifting the field's 'repression' of defenses.
Vaillant, George; The American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol 169(9), Sep 1, 2012 pp. 885-887. Publisher: American Psychiatric Assn; [Editorial], Database: PsycINFO

6. Loss as a metaphor for attachment.
Vaillant, George E.; The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, Vol 45(1), Spr 1985 pp. 59-67. Publisher: Springer; [Journal Article], Database: PsycINFO

7. Midlife Eriksonian psychosocial development: Setting the stage for late-life cognitive and emotional health.
Malone, Johanna C.; Liu, Sabrina R.; Vaillant, George E.; Rentz, Dorene M.; Waldinger, Robert J.; Developmental Psychology, Vol 52(3), Mar, 2016 pp. 496-508. Publisher: American Psychological Association; [Journal Article],

8. The beginning of wisdom is never calling a patient a borderline: or The clinical management of immature defenses in the treatment of individuals with personality disorders.
Vaillant, George E.; Journal of Psychotherapy Practice & Research, Vol 1(2), Spr 1992 pp. 117-134. Publisher: American Psychiatric Press; [Journal Article], Database: PsycINFO

9. The role of ego mechanisms of defense in the diagnosis of personality disorders.
Vaillant, George E.; McCullough, Leigh; In: Making diagnosis meaningful: Enhancing evaluation and treatment of psychological disorders. Barron, James W. (Ed); Publisher: American Psychological Association; 1998, pp. 139-158.

10. Determinants and consequences of creativity in a cohort of gifted women.
Vaillant, George E.; Vaillant, Caroline O.; Psychology of Women Quarterly, Vol 14(4), Dec, 1990 Special Issue: Women at midlife and beyond. pp. 607-616. Publisher: Blackwell Publishing; [Journal Article], Database: PsycINFO


Contact: Healthcare Conferences UK

Download: Full event programme

10 March 2016


    Partner Organisations

    The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation TrustInPracticeClinical Audit Support CentrePlayoutJust For Nurses
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