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1. Repeated reliving of the original trauma helps to reduce anxiety and
correct a belief that anxiety will necessarily continue unless avoidance
and escape mechanisms are activated.
2. Discussing the traumatic event reduces negative reinforcement of the
event and helps the client see it in a logical way that corrects misper-
ceptions of the event.
3. Speaking about the trauma helps the client realize that it's not dangerous
to remember the trauma.
4. The ability of the client to speak about the trauma provides the client
with a sense of mastery over his or her PTSD symptoms.
Hensley (2002, p. 338) provides the following explanation of exposure
therapy as it might be applied to a client suffering from PTSD as a result
of rape:
1. Memories, people, places, and activities now associated with the rape
make you highly anxious, so you avoid them.
2. Each time you avoid them you do not finish the process of digesting
the painful experience, and so it returns in the form of nightmares,
flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts.
3. You can begin to digest the experience by gradually exposing yourself
to the rape in your imagination and by holding the memory without
pushing it away.
4. You will also practice facing those activities, places, and situations that
currently evoke fear.
5. Eventually, you will be able to think about the rape and resume your
normal activities without experiencing intense fear.
Effectiveness studies of using exposure therapy for PTSD have been
quite positive. In the annual review of important findings in psychology,
12 studies found positive results using exposure therapy with PTSD. Eight
of these studies received special recognition for the quality of their meth-
odology and for the positive nature of their outcomes ( Foa & Meadows,
1997 ). Rothbaum et al. (2002) write that, “Exposure therapy has more
empirical evidence for its efficacy than any other treatment developed for
the treatment of trauma-related symptoms” (p. 65).
Debriefing
A form of treatment with potential for use in work with PTSD victims
following a workplace tragedy is a single-session treatment, or what
has also been called “debriefing.” In this approach, clients who have
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