Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What happened to you?

Paivio and Angus point out in their book, Narrative Processes in Emotion-Focused Therapy For Trauma, that overgeneral autobiographical memory contributes to emotional avoidance and  self-incoherence.

They point to research which indicates that a key cognitive marker for clinical depression is what they describe as "a preference for overgeneral autobiographical memory (ABM) representations and difficulty accessing and disclosing specific, or episodic, ABH narratives of personal life events." p.49

This statement reminds me of the work with ACEs and the difficulty people have identifying traumatic experiences which are left to contaminate physiological functioning contributing to symptoms and acting out.

Paivio and Angus write further, "This is important because the inability to access and integrate specific ABM has been associated with reduced self-coherence, increased rumination and worry, impairment in social problem solving, and a reduced capacity to imagine future events." p.49

Paivio and Angus note further, "Interestingly, cognitive researchers such as Teasdale (1999) have suggested that overgeneral memory representations may function as effective emotion avoidance strategy that results in impaired specific autobiographical memory recall that is essential for effective problem-solving and the articulation of new personal meanings." p. 49

Given these observations, Paivio and Angus note that "...therapists' ability to help clients move to more specific autobiographical memory disclosures in therapy sessions may be a key emotion processing step - and change event - in effective treatment of depression." p.49

The therapeutic activity is called deconstruction when the therapist asks the client for more detail about a more general reference. It is the breaking down of the general to the more specific that allows greater ability to manage emotions and thinking and meaning making about the traumatic event.

The trauma informed therapist does not ask, "What's wrong with you?" but rather "What happened to you?"

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