Mervin Smucker. Conceptualization of Abandonment Panic

Clinical observations suggest that a state of „abandonment panic“ may be triggered in borderline and narcissistic individuals when a here-and-now threat of abandonment is associated with earlier experiences of abandonment depression. The fear of abandonment depression is sufficient to trigger a panic response, as the individual feels the threat of being overwhelmed by the traumatic affect associated with memories and experiences of early abandonment. Thus, when borderline or narcissistic individuals experience the threat or signal of abandonment depression, they are often propelled to activate their seemingly dysfunctional, acting-out behaviours, in order to ward off the overwhelming feelings of abandonment depression (e.g., by outbursts of rage, suicide gestures or other self-injurious actions) which may then lead them to re-connect with care-givers, therapist, or significant others (e.g., via hospitalization, emergency therapy session) and a temporary remittance of the abandonment panic.

Dr. Mervin Smucker is an international trauma consultant and author of numerous articles and books on trauma and cognitive-behavioural therapy interventions.

Mervin Smucker. The essentials goals of cognitive therapy.

Cognitive therapy is based on the underlying rationale that the way in which individuals interpret and structure their experiences determine in large how they think, feel, and act. The therapy involves teaching individuals a blend of verbal, visual, and behavioural modification techniques designed to help them to identify, reality-test, and correct their own distorted cognitions and the maladaptive beliefs underlying them. When a person is able to think and act more realistically and adaptively to here-and-now issues, problems, and situations, an amelioration in mood and overall functioning generally ensues. Thus, the primary goals of cognitive therapy are to:

  • alleviate the emotional distress of patients by identifying and modifying their cognitive distortions, misinterpretations, self-defeating behaviors, underlying dysfunctional beliefs and maladaptive schemas.
  • have patients learn to incorporate the therapeutic techniques of the therapist so that they can, in effect, become their own cognitive therapist; that is, they learn to alleviate their own negative moods by becoming trained to logically  examine and modify their dysfunctional cognitions themselves.

Mervin Smucker

Mervin Smucker (2016). The Nature of Traumatic vs. Non-Traumatic Memory.

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.

Mervin Smucker

Mervin Smucker. A Stress Inoculation Training (SIT) Approach to Trauma and PTSD

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.

Mervin Smucker

Mervin Smucker (2016). Post-Imagery Rescripting SUDS Homework Form.

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.

Mervin Smucker