Processing trauma : studies into post-traumatic stress disorder, eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing and post-traumatic growth
While PTSD results in various symptomatology, key characteristics concern a sense of being "stuck" on the trauma which keeps the person reliving it through thoughts, feelings and images and a need to avoid anything which reminds them of the trauma. Such avoidance is suggested to prevent the opportunity for processing and integrating the distressing material. One key clinical question is how to help the person work through their trauma without them becoming overwhelmed by trauma symptoms? Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a relatively new technique that has been reported to help PTSD sufferers reduce the intensity and intrusiveness of traumatic thoughts and images. Despite the growing clinical evidence of the effectiveness of EMDR, a strong debate exists within the research literature regarding its empirical and theoretical validity. One aspect of this dissertation is an experimental study looking at the role of eye movements in Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing and testing a working memory model of "distress reduction". Of course not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will go on to develop PTSD. An often neglected area of trauma investigation is how some individuals experience positive change and personal growth as a result of their traumatic experiences. This is an area that is now beginning to receive some attention and has been termed Posttraumatic Growth (PTG). The move away from looking exclusively at the impact of trauma to consider how people who have experienced trauma might construct a more positive understanding of themselves in the light of the trauma forms the main section of this dissertation. This exploratory study uses personal experience narratives of posttraumatic growth.