The nature of traumatic memories has implications for how trauma-related material is accessed, confronted, and processed in psychotherapy. Traumatic memories are generally encoded and accessed differently from non-traumatic or narrative memories. In contrast to narrative memories, traumatic memories are more likely to:
- lack in verbal narrative and context;
- involve primary sensory stimuli (visual, kinesthetic, auditory)
- be encoded in the form of vivid sensations and images that are not accessible by linguistic means alone;
- be state dependent;
- be difficult to integrate via assimilation or accommodation because they are stored differently
- dissociated from conscious control
- “fixed” in their original form and remain unaltered by the passage of time.
Stress inoculation training focuses on teaching a traumatized individual to develop more effective coping skills with a particular focus on learning better problem-solving and anger control strategies, as well as self-calming, self-soothing, and relaxation techniques. Examples of techniques used in stress inoculation training include: early identification of anxiety-provoking cues and use of appropriate coping skills, thought-stopping, Beck/Ellis cognitive restructuring, guided self-dialogue, deep muscle relaxation plus breathing retraining, listening to relaxation and/or guided imagery tapes, biofeedback, social skills training, and distraction.
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Mervin Smucker Slides
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Watch now: Mervin Smucker: Overcoming Spider Phobia
The Post-Imagery Rescripting SUDS Homework Form is designed to assist the client while listening to the audiotaped recording of an imagery rescripting session.
Post-Imagery Homework: Listen daily to audiotape of entire Imagery Rescripting session for one week. Record date and time of each audiotape listening session.
Record Subjective Units of Distress (SUDS: 0 – 100) at the beginning and end of listening to the audiotape. Also record the peak (highest) SUDS experienced while listening to the audiotape.
Self-administer the Post-Imagery Questionnaire (PIQ-A or PIQ-B) immediately after listening to the audiotape and record the total PIQ score.
Our minds crave stories to make meaning of events around us. If we cannot find available stories that produce a satisfactory explanation for a troubling event, our minds will create them—much as spiders spin webs—in an attempt to capture meaning. Many times these “self-created” stories draw on deeper narratives stemming from our perceptions of past life experiences, which we have internalized and of which we are often not fully aware. These deeper narratives have a profound effect on the cognitive and emotional templates we develop, which in turn can have a profound influence on our overall wellbeing, as well as on our worldview and how we interpret our lives. Psychotherapy is, in part, about uncovering, confronting, and modifying the underlying stories we tell ourselves.
Because childhood trauma victims often have developed hostile introjects resulting from their traumatic experiences, having imaginary “therapeutic” conversations with important support people (e.g., a therapist, counselor, coach, teacher, mentor) can be useful in helping individuals to develop positive introjects that compete with and eventually replace the old negative, hostile introjects. The new positive introject is essentially a positive internal representation of the support person that, when visually activated or “summoned up”, can have a calming/soothing effect on the individual’s mood – especially during times of emotional distress – and which eventually becomes a permanent part of the individual’s schematic internal representation of self. The goal for trauma victims is not only to develop an enhanced ability to self-calm and self-soothe when feeling upset, but also to develop stronger “shock absorbers” so that they can better absorb the daily “knocks” of life without being thrown into a major crisis whenever they “go over a bump on the road