Narrative Exposure Therapy

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Narrative Exposure is a therapeutic approach that has proved to be over time very successful in dealing with cases such as war, organized violence, rape, torture and childhood abuse. Basically, Narrative Exposure therapy can be employed for treating any person who went through multiple events that generated traumas. Taking into account controlled trials in various regions and other tests in some disaster areas have proven that this therapeutic approach brings major improvements and relief after a number of three to six such sessions.

Even if Narrative Exposure therapy is a rather new branch of psychotherapy, it managed to prove its short term efficiency for treating the conditions generated by multiple past traumas of an individual. The patient is encouraged to talk a lot about the event he or she has been through and to re-live as many associated emotions as possible, in order for the relief to start occurring. Depression is one very good target of this type of therapy, which manages very well to improve the present mood effects generated by past events that triggered depression in the first place.

During the sessions of Narrative Exposure therapy, an individual is firstly assessed in order to ascertain the presence and the level of the post traumatic stress disorder and then he or she is asked to start depicting his or her own lifeline, with regard to happy and unhappy events. In this respect, the lifeline is practically represented by a rope and the patient is asked to use flowers and rocks to establish the happy events (using the flowers) and the unhappy ones (using the rocks). After this graphic representation, the next step in the therapy sessions is the patient explaining all the events he has previously determined, as well as describing some potential dreams and hopes he or she might have for the future.

The employment of Narrative Exposure therapy is not meant to be carried out for a long period of time, but a short one, comprised of a small number of sessions per week, for a few weeks. Although is not easy for the patient to go through all the traumatic events of his life over and over again, this technique  has proved to be the most efficient approach. However, a potential down side of it is the fact that some of the patients don’t know exactly which of the past events caused the mood disorders in the present, as reflected by a study in 2005, published in BMC Psychiatry. The target of Narrative Exposure is to make the patient go through all the unhappy events from the past and focus on the most important. In this way, the patient gets used to emotional responses towards memories that cause different levels of pain, thus helping relief to step in and the post traumatic stress disorder to diminish.

Based on studies applied in different situations of traumas, it can be said that Narrative Exposure therapy works very efficiently when carried out together with group therapy and mourning. Studies on the children exposed to genocide in Rwanda, carried out by S. Schaala, F. Neunerin and T. Elberta have proved amazing results.

Category: Narrative Therapy


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I’ve hurt myself while trying to help myself more than you can imagine, that’s why I want to scientifically analyze every popular self-help technique and ‘method’ there is.