The Neurorelational Framework: Translating Brain Science into Clinical Practice

Connie Lillas, Ph.D., MFT, RN
Keynote Speaker
October 20, 2017
9:00 am – 4:00 pm


36th Annual Conference
In Cooperation with the UIC Children’s Center

Neurorelational Framework: Translating Brain Science into Clinical Practice

The Irving B. Harris Keynote Addresses

The Harvard Center on the Developing Child has identified core concepts that organize neurodevelopment: 1) the different effects of toxic and adaptive stress, 2) the process of “serve and return” interactions that fire and wire the brain architecture, and 3) individual differences in brain architecture. The Neurorelational Framework’s (NRF) three clinical steps align with the three core concepts of neurodevelopment. The NRF provides a common language and shared practices for clinicians that ensures a neuroprotective approach. The three clinical steps support assessment and intervention and are applicable to high risk populations and children who have experienced abuse and neglect. The three key steps will be introduced through video-based case examples. Participants will be encouraged to apply these three clinical steps to themselves and a current case they have, in support of reflective practice. Participants will be guided through the three clinical steps using the framework of shared decision making and evidence based practice. Demonstrations will provide participants with processes and tools that can be used with families immediately.

Conference Participants will be able to:

  • Identify three stress responses and four toxic stress patterns
  • Identify seven socio-emotional milestones for assessing the quality of engagement
  • Discriminate between interventions that are related to “bottom-up” and “top-down” behaviors

Connie Lillas, Ph.D., MFT, RN

Dr. Connie Lillas is an infant mental health and early intervention specialist, with a strong background in maternal-child nursing, family systems training, and developmental psychoanalysis. She views the birth to five year span as the foundation for mind/brain/body health., She  practices a complex approach to assessing and treating infants, young children, and their parents and caregivers.

With a long-established private clinical practice, Dr. Lillas serves children and families across the lifespan.  She has co-authored a professional scholarly book with Dr. Janiece Turnbull,  Infant Mental Health, Early Intervention, and Relationship-Based Therapies:  A Neurorelational Framework for Interdisciplinary Practice, as part of the W.W. Norton series on “Interpersonal Neurobiology.” Additionally, Dr. Lillas is a National Graduate Zero To Three Leadership Fellow, recognized as having made an innovative contribution to the field of infant mental health and early intervention.

Dr. Lillas is the Founder and President of the non-profit, NRF Global Communities which houses the NRF Training Manual for cross-sectored communities that are using the NRF’s three clinical steps to build a common language and shared approach across systems of care.  The NRF’s curriculum provides a developmental care approach that is trauma-informed, neurobiologically sensitive, and integrated with cultural awareness.

8:00 Registration
Continental Breakfast
Program/Research Posters will be available throughout the day.
9:00 Welcome – Delreen Schmidt-Lenz,LCSW, I/ECHM-C President, ILAIMH
Introduction of Dr. Lillas – Tina Copeland, LCSW
Irving B. Harris Keynote: The Three Elements of Early Brain Development and Their Translation into the steps of the Neurorelational Framework – Connie Lillas Ph.D.
10:30 Break
10:45 Step 1: Assess Stress, Stress Recovery Arousal and Patterns – Dr. Connie Lillas, Ph.D.
Noon Lunch with Presentations
Special Tribute honoring Peggy North-Jones, Ph.D., I/ECHM-C, CFLE, Retired Associate Director, Caregiver Connections Peggy’s 45 year career has included work in 32 states and 3 countries, finishing with the last 10 here in Illinois. She has been involved in direct service to children and families in pediatric settings, in home visiting, in childcare and in consultation with programs and professionals, always focusing on strength-based, systemic and reflective approaches to interactions. Dodie Norton Research Award Presentation
1:00 Step 2 and 3: Assess the Quality of Engagement in Serve and Return Process; Micro-Assess Individual Differences and Macro- Use Brain Networks for Community Development – Dr.Connie Lillas, Ph.D.
2:30 Break
2:45 Application of steps to video-based case presentation – Dr. Connie Lillas, Ph.D.
4:00 Closing Remarks and Evaluation

Conference Committee

Tina Copeland, Conference Chair
Norma Swanson Irie, Tammy Besser, Andrew Fisher, Yvonne Gutierrez-Villafuerte, Jenna Kelly, Delreen Schmidt-Lenz, Jean Rounds, Kim Kull, Ali Stockman

For more information, 773-417-9319

If your organization would like to display research posters or program materials, please contact Yvonne at:

Conference Location

The UIC Forum
725 W. Roosevelt Rd.
Chicago, IL 60608


  • From the Dan Ryan Expressway, exit 52B toward Roosevelt Rd./Taylor St.  Stay straight to go onto Ruble St., turn left onto W. Roosevelt Rd.
  • From the Kennedy Expressway, take the Taylor St. exit 52A toward Roosevelt Rd. Stay straight to go onto S. Union Ave.  Turn right onto W. Roosevelt Rd.


Public Transportation

  • CTA Blue Line train (UIC-Halsted and Racine stops) and the Pink Line train (Polk stop)
  • CTA bus lines serving campus (#7 Harrison, #8 Halsted, #9 Ashland, #11 Lincoln/Sedgwick, #12 Roosevelt, #60 Blue Island/26th, #157 Streeterville/Taylor, #168 Pilsen Express)


Parking Information

Ample parking located two blocks west of the UIC Forum at 1135 S. Morgan St. Lot 5 for a fee.


Full-day participants: Social workers and counselors will receive 6 CEUs.
Early Intervention credit has been applied for.

Special thanks to the Irving B. Harris Foundation for their continued generous support of the ILAIMH Conference and to the UIC Children’s Center.