Treating post-traumatic stress disorder

Trinity Western University researchers are conducting comparative studies for three treatments of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that, in the last 10 years, have helped reduce and eliminate PTSD symptoms in female victims of sexual assault. All three therapies—Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Grounding and Relaxation Techniques, and One Eye Integration (OEI)—have proven effective when compared against no-treatment control participants, but to date, no study compares their effectiveness against each other.

“PTSD occurs in 10 percent of men and 18 percent of women who have experienced trauma, but in cases of sexual assault, almost half of women develop the disorder,” says Rick Bradshaw, PhD, principal investigator and professor of the graduate program in counselling psychology at Trinity Western University. Symptoms of PTSD are numerous and can include panic attacks, black-outs, sleep difficulties and extreme fear and vigilance.

CPT, the first therapy examined, involves the addressing and restructuring of shattered beliefs. It has been found effective for treating both PTSD and depression following traumatic events and has shown good results for rape survivors. The second therapy, Grounding and Relaxation Techniques, focuses on the individual’s physiological state using autogenics, visualization and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system to overcome PTSD symptoms. Trauma therapists have used this approach extensively, specifically with survivors of the September 11th terrorist attacks of 2001.

The third technique, OEI, is a relatively new treatment, similar to a more well-known therapy, EMDR. Co-developed by trauma treatment specialists Audrey Cook and Bradshaw, OEI involves a set of techniques using light and eye movement. Bradshaw describes OEI as “highly effective from my clinical experience in treating trauma.”

Study researchers are currently looking for further research applicants. Participants will receive at least three one-hour treatment sessions, and two two-hour group sessions with experienced masters-level female counsellors. Ideally, participants should not have experienced more than two sexual assaults, and it must not have occurred within 12 months. Women interested should call Heather Bowden in the Department of Counselling Psychology at TWU: (604) 513-2164 or visit the website http://www.twu.ca/cpsy/trauma.asp

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