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Abstract

This study explored the use of a brief experimental intervention that integrates principles of infant-parent psychotherapy, videofeedback, controlled exposure to child distress in the context of parental posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and stimulation of parental reflective functioning (RF). The Clinician Assisted Videofeedback Exposure Session (CAVES) was applied to 32 interpersonal violence exposed mothers of very young children (8–50 months) with respect to change of maternal perception of her child. While we found no significant reduction over two videotaped assessment visits with a mental health professional, we did find a significant reduction in the degree of negativity of maternal attributions towards her child following the videotaped visit focused on the CAVES (p< .01). Maternal RF, a mother's capacity to think about mental states in herself and her child, accounted for 11% of the variance in reduction of maternal negativity after accounting for baseline levels of negativity. Clinician-assisted videofeedback appears to support emotional self-regulation of mothers with violence-related PTSD. Focusing with a therapist on videofeedback of child separation distress exposes mothers to avoided mental states of helplessness and perceived loss of protection. Negative maternal attributions may mark violent trauma-associated emotion dysregulation and projected self-representations of the maltreated mother.