Awakening the healing power within:
Insula, Neuroception, Dyadic Contemplative Presence and Zhuangzi in Truma-informed Care


Trauma-informed Care Series

 in helping professional practice


Awakening the healing power within:
Insula, Neuroception, Dyadic Contemplative Presence and Zhuangzi in Truma-informed Care


Trainer︰Dr. Danny Yeung

Workshop Description:

We are wired for healing. Our central nervous systems are wired for resilience and growth. An explosion of research in neuroscience, including neuroplasticity, since the Decade of the Brain (1990-1999), has revolutionized our understanding of trauma spectrum disorders and trauma-informed care. But what is the nature of ‘care’? Focusing on dyadic contemplative presence, this workshop aims to approach trauma-informed care through the transtheorectical lens of therapeutic presence as a common factor of therapeutic effectiveness, promoting positive therapeutic alliance which is known to be the most robust predictor of treatment success. This workshop is not about any specific trauma treatment models or the therapist’s ‘doing’ in treatment*, rather, it is about therapist’s ‘being’ in treatment, or the therapist’s inner life, care of self and the use of self. As such, this trauma-informed ‘care’ is from the inside out, emanating from the therapist’s way of ‘being’ into her/his therapeutic act of ‘doing’. This workshop further explores the neurobiological underpinnings of dyadic contemplative presence, including the insula, middle prefrontal cortex and the smart vagus. Finally, situating ourselves in the Chinese cultural context, Zhuangzi, arguably the first existentialist psychotherapist living in the trauma ridden era of the Warring States, becomes an inspirational wise elder for contemporary trauma informed care givers the art and the practice of contemplative presence.

* While the trainer’s understanding of trauma treatment is informed by Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP), Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), Somatic Experiencing (SE), Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Emotions Focused Therapy (EFT), Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Focusing and more, this workshop will not exclusively promote any of the above. Participants interested in these specific models are encouraged to seek accredited trainings locally or internationally.


At the end of this workshop, participants will:

  1. Understand therapeutic presence as a common factor in psychotherapy and contributor to positive therapeutic alliance.

  2. Understand dyadic contemplative presence as, informed by equal parts attachment, intersubjectivity and mindfulness, a specialized form of therapeutic presence.

  3. Understand the significance of the insula cortex in therapeutic presence i.e neurobiological mediation of interoceptive awareness.

  4. Understand the significance of the insula cortex, specifically Von Economo neurons, in consciousness of self, empathy and intuition.

  5. Understand the significance of dyadic contemplative presence in promoting neuroception of safety in trauma treatment.

  6. Understand the contemporary relevance and clinical applications of Zhuangzi in the context of contemplative presence

  7. Understand how to experientially cultivate contemplative presence, inner life, care of self and as a way of being.

  8. Understand how to experientially use the breath to promote ne uroception of safety via activation of smart vagus.

  9. Understand how to experientially use the practice of savouring to romot neuroplasticity and ‘glue in’ positive experience.


Day 1    

  • A. Therapeutic presence as a transtheoretical common factor across treatment
    models in trauma informed care

  • B. The neurobiology of dyadic contemplative presence: insula, middle prefrontal
    cortex and their associated functions.

  • C. Experiential exercises and clinical video analysis of The Inner Chamber.


Day 2    

  • A. The neurobiology of dyadic contemplative presence: smart vagus and the
    neuroception of safety in trauma informed care.

  • B. Zhuangzi: contemporary relevance and clinical applications in the context of
    contemplative presence

  • C. Experiential exercises and clinical video analysis of The Lonely Atman.


  1. Didactic lecture: Interactive comments, questions and answers are encouraged

  2. Monadic experiential exercises: Cultivation of therapeutic presence as informed
    by mindfulness tradition

  3. Dyadic experiential exercises: Cultivation of dyadic contemplative presence as 
    informed by attachment, intersubjectivity and contemplative practices

  4. Clinical video analysis: Actual video clinical sessions of working with clients 
    with history of trauma will be analyzed in a real time pause-play moment-to-moment

About the trainer:

Dr. Danny Yeung( 楊兆前)
Assistant Professor, Department of Family & Community Medicine cross
appointment Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine,
University of Toronto

Dr. Danny Yeung ( 楊兆前) is a trainer and supervisor for post-graduate mental
health professionals in Hong Kong, China, United States and Canada. An Assistant
Professor with the Department of Family and Community Medicine with cross
appointment at Department of Psychiatry in the Faculty of Medicine at the University
of Toronto, Dr. Yeung also serves as a Consultant Physician / Psychotherapist of
Assertive Community Treatment Team and Mental Health Court Support Program
for the Department of Psychiatry of Mount Sinai Hospital. His unique contribution
as a family doctor and a psychotherapist in the ACT Team, unparalleled globally,
was instrumental in helping his team to win the American Psychiatric Foundation
Advancing Minority Mental Health Award in 2007 and the Leading Practices
Award presented by Ontario Hospital Association in 2007. He was also personally
honored with the Joel Sadavoy Community Mental Health Award for 2011, Award of
Excellence from the College of Family Physicians of Canada for 2012 and Peter R.
Newman Humanitarian Award for 2013.
Dr. Yeung is the lead author of Rainbow After: Psychological Trauma and Accelerated
Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy, arguably one of the original trauma treatment
manual published in Chinese. He coauthored Portrait of the Soul, a study of nine
personality styles, currently in its 6th edition. Together with Dr. Diana Fosha, he also
coauthored a chapter in the Casebook of Psychotherapy Integration, published by
American Psychological Association.
Dr. Yeung has trained and supervised, since 2005, over 400 mental health clinicians,
including social workers, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists in Hong Kong.
Dr. Yeung served in a crises response team for a group of Canadian survivors in the
September 11 terrorist attacks. During the SARS crises in 2003, he was a lead trainer
in Toronto for psychological crises response for the Chinese community. Following
the Great Earthquake in China 2008, he served as a Consultant to Wenchuan
Earthquake Psychological Assistance Team during the post-512 earthquake relief
efforts. Passionate in promoting psychotherapy training in China, he traveled to
Mianzhu Sichuan in sharing his work. Hundreds of his trauma treatment manual were
donated in dedication to the survivors and families of the earthquake.
Dr. Yeung holds a Doctor of Medicine Degree from University of Toronto. A Certificant
and Fellow of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, he is also appointed by
the College as Psychotherapy Mentor for the Collaborative Mental Health Network
and a Peer Assessor for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. He
is serving as the President of the Working With Families Institute. He maintains a
private practice in family medicine and psychotherapy in Toronto since 1989.