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When Past Dominates Present: Traumatic Memories and Refugee Trauma

Clinical Master Class Evening held on 25 March 2015

These recorded lectures will soon be available to be viewed for a small fee at Owl Talks Lectures.

Understanding Mechanisms Underlying Intrusive Memories

Dr Jessica Cheung, PhD

Distressing, intrusive memories are a common psychological symptom following a traumatic event. However, not all trauma survivors experience ongoing intrusions, which represent a key feature of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Major psychological models of PTSD propose several pathways to the formation and maintenance of intrusive memories and flashback phenomena. Despite this, there
is a noticeable lack of empirical evidence to support and inform these mechanisms.

This presentation discussed recent experimental research investigating the role of cognitive appraisal in the maintenance of intrusions. Pathways by which negative, catastrophic appraisals of intrusive symptomatology promote their occurence were explored. Implications for the assessment and treatment of flashbacks and traumatic memories in refugee groups were discussed.

Cognitive Skills Practice to Tame Traumatic Memories

Dominica Dorning

Re-experiencing symptoms including traumatic memories and intrusive thoughts are a prominent characteristic of post traumatic stress disorder and can cause distress, unnecessarily activate the arousal system, create fear and engender distrust. The effects of enduring uncertainty associated with applications for protection may exacerbate and/or perpetuate traumatic memories and their associated distress. A range of cognitive intervention approaches have been found to alleviate the frequency
and severity of symptoms.

In this presentation Dominica explored the case of a West African asylum seeker who presented with persistent intrusive traumatic memories and thoughts. An enduring period of uncertainty awaiting an outcome on his protection visa application, fears of detention and deportation also contributed to the development of anticipatory threat based thoughts. The cognitive approaches utilised including cognitive diffusion, present moment focus techniques and mindfulness were discussed.

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