Tag: mental health

Does Narrative Exposure Therapy Reduce PTSD in Survivors of Mass Violence?

Article of the Week:

Does Narrative Exposure Therapy Reduce PTSD in Survivors of Mass Violence?

by McPherson, J. (2012).

(Research on Social Work Practice, 22(1), 29-42. DOI: 10.1177/1049731511414147)

Background

As a comeback to my series of summaries of interesting scientific research articles in psychology, I’ll start with something directly relevant to my current work as a PhD Candidate researcher.

After a particularly frightening, dangerous or otherwise intensely stressful experience, stress reactions can be considered normal. However, if such symptoms persist for several months, we may speak of persistent post-traumatic stress symptoms and, in cases where they reach a certain clinically significant level, of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Typically, PTSD symptoms consist of involuntarily re-experiencing the traumatic event in some way (flashback phenomena, intrusive thoughts and memories), avoiding places, people and things that are reminders of the trauma or act as triggers for re-experiencing, and hyper-arousal (problems concentrating, sleeping, over-vigilance, feelings of danger).

The standard treatments for PTSD and related symptoms include trauma-focused and other forms of cognitive behavioral therapy. However, clinicians and researchers have found that these standard treatments often do not work so well with individuals who have repeatedly experienced many traumatic incidents, especially in contexts such as war and armed conflict. With this in mind, new forms of therapy appropriate for such sequentially traumatized individuals are needed.

One such relatively new form of therapy is Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET), developed by M. Schauer, F. Neuner and T. Elbert, drawing on emotional processing theory, trauma-focused CBT and testimonial therapy. It is a program of on average eight sessions, where emotional processing and thus healing is thought to occur through repeated narration of the traumatic events leading to habituation to their distressing effects, as well as through the reconstruction of a coherent narrative of the events and their place in the individual’s autobiographical memories. The entire life story of the patient, including her/his most negative and traumatic as well as positive experiences, is narrated and written down in detail during the therapy.

The article summarized here is a review by J. McPherson of the evidence “so far” (until 2011 or so, that is) on the effectiveness of Narrative Exposure Therapy to reduce PTSD symptoms, mainly in survivors of different forms of mass violence.

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AotD: Argentine tango dance compared to mindfulness meditation and a waiting-list control

Article of the Day:

Argentine tango dance compared to mindfulness meditation and a waiting-list control:

A randomised trial for treating depression

by Pinniger, R., Brown, R.F., Thorsteinsson, E.B., & McKinley, P. (2012).

(Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 20, 377-384. DOI: 10.1016/j.ctim.2012.07.003)

Background & Research

Depression and anxiety problems are massive public health issues, not to mention sources of great suffering for millions of people worldwide. In addition to the current standard approach of medication and/or, more rarely, psychotherapy, a great number of somewhat more alternative treatments/forms of help have been proposed and developed for depression and anxiety. Programs or treatments that would be easy to implement, preferably in group settings, inclusive, and cost-effective garner great interest for practical reasons.

Physical activity overall has been found to significantly alleviate depressive symptoms and psychological distress. This is especially true for recreational physical activity, as opposed to specific rehabilitation exercises. Dance combines physical activity with other features found to promote mental well-being, including expressive characteristics, music and (in the case of pair/group dancing) a strong social and physical connection to another person. Not surprisingly, studies have reported dance “therapies” to be at least an effective adjunct to other forms of therapy for depression and anxiety.

Argentinian-style tango dancing in particular adds to the equation requirements for greater awareness of one’s own body and that of the partner, as well as awareness of the current experience in the here and now overall, trust in the partner, and significant skills acquisition over time. A number of physical and social benefits from tango dancing have already been demonstrated (e.g., improved balance, self-esteem, quality of life, coordination, walking speed). Further, despite its generally melancholic contents, tango music has been shown to generate positive emotions, and combined with partnered dancing to improve a person’s emotional state.

In light of these features of tango music and dancing, the study this article reports on examined the possibility that tango dancing could be employed as a mindfulness-based treatment for affective symptoms. Other more clearly mindfulness-based interventions, such as Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy, have previously been shown to reduce symptom severity in, e.g., depression and pain, in several studies. Out of particular mindfulness activities, meditation has repeatedly been found to improve psychological well-being in many ways. The authors propose that tango dancing shares attributes with such mindfulness promoting approaches, and could represent a novel form of group intervention combining elements of physical activity and mindfulness. Continue Reading…

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AotD: Psychedelics and Mental Health: A Population Study

Article of the Day:

Psychedelics and Mental Health: A Population Study

by Krebs, T. S., & Johansen, P-Ø. (2013)

(PLoS ONE, 8(8), e63972. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0063972)

Background

Psychedelic substances, such as psilocybin-containing mushrooms, DMT-containing brews (ayahuasca), mescaline-containing cacti, ibogaine-containing roots and seeds with LSA, have been used for religious, shamanistic, divination and healing purposes by various cultures for thousands of years. Since the 1960s especially, the use of psychedelics, most commonly lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD-25), psilocybin and mescaline, has also been relatively widespread in the “Western” world for various purposes, including recreational, spiritual and religious uses.

Much research into the potential therapeutic uses of (some) psychedelics was carried out in the 1950s and 1960s, but due to political, legislative and other reasons, a long hiatus followed. In recent years, starting with DMT studies in the 1990s, and over the last 5-10 years in particular, there has been increasing renewed interest in such uses. In light of this renewed interest, research over the safety of these substances appears of great importance.

It is known that the “classic” serotonergic psychedelics, that is, LSD, psilocybin and mescaline, are physically very safe substances, non-addictive, and do not lead to violence or other major social problems in the way some psychoactive substances do. When considering the possible risks of these substances, the main concern has focused on potential mental health effects, in particular on possible links to long-term psychotic, phobic or PTSD-like symptoms. Psychedelics can indeed elicit very intense experiences in their users, often positive and even ecstatic or rapturous but sometimes negative and terrifying. In light of these extreme effects, and some (though limited) similarities in states produced by psychedelic use and those experienced during mental illness, it is not surprising that many have wondered about the connections between psychedelic use and mental health, and some case reports of long-term mental problems following psychedelic use exist.

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