The experiment here is testing whether the use of accelerated resolutions therapy (ART) can reduce the effects of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a less intense way than they have before, and additionally a more cost and time effective way, in order to produce less damaging and more rapid results.
Instead of having veterans solely talk about the scenarios that haunted them in their PTSD flashbacks, they instead had them visualize the scenes and feelings while performing ART. They randomly divided participants into two groups, and randomly assigned them either the ART treatment, of the alternative attention control (AC) treatment. The patients who received the AC treatment were offered a crossover option to the ART after 3 months.
They administered the ART treatment 2-5 times with 60-75 minute sessions. Each session had two components, imagination exposure (IE) and imagery rescripting (IR). In IE participants were asked to recall, both verbally or nonverbally (the imagination) the traumatic event that the PTSD stemmed from while focusing on physiological sensations, thoughts, and emotions, on top of the imagining. During this component, the participant, with assistance from the clinician, was brought into a simultaneously relaxed and alert state, and then asked to reactivate the traumatic memory for a 30 to 45 second period of time. The exposure to the memory was followed by the participant’s identification and eradication of the negative emotional or somatic symptoms to themselves, with again the assistance of the professional. They executed this by directing the participant to hold their awareness of the negative associated symptoms while simultaneously carrying out the directed eye movements.
The IR portion of the testing involves the use of techniques in which the participant is instructed to again visualize their traumatic scene, but this time imagine replacing the imagery and sensory components of the scene to anything they choose, much like rewriting the script of what happened, giving it the name rescripiting. As they start to use the positive scene as a substitute, the participant was then instructed to try and again access the original, previously distressing, images. The treatment of the traumatic scene was considered effective when only the replacement scene could be accessed, however noting that knowledge of the original scene was still part of the participants memory. A consistent way that the ART session was ended was to ask the participant to picture a bridge and then imagine leaving the distressing images behind and then crossing the bridge, which represented the people then moving on from the problems.
Veteran participants were recruited for the experiment from centers and organizations around the Tampa Bay area, including local VA hospitals, military bases, and through USF itself. The participants were tested at the school’s College of Nursing. Additionally, there was a one time outreach to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada. The selected people who on a self evaluation test, the PCL-M Checklist that self reports DSM-IV symptoms of PTSD in response to stressful military experiences. It not only shows indications of PTSD but also accompanying disorders such as major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, drug or alcohol abuse/dependence, psychosis, eating disorder, somatization disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, social phobia, hypochondriasis, and agoraphobia, which all can accompany or even intensify PTSD. The tests and questionnaires are meant to figure out the statistics of the people involved, specifically the number of traumatic events, the duration of symptoms, their personal feelings that could continue to affect the PTSD, and what other treatments they have undergone in attempt to help with their problems.
The AC option consisted of two hour long sessions of the participants choice of either the fitness assessment and planning option or career assessment and planning option. The fitness assessment and planning regimen was conducted by a certified health fitness trainer. This option included determination of body fat percentage, determining their body mass index, a review of the participants previous exercise history, and defining of physical fitness goals specific to the individual. The alternative career assessment and planning regimen was conducted by a professional career counselor. It included completion and review of the Career Planning Scale, which encompasses 6 scales covering knowledge of the world of work, knowledge of occupations, self-knowledge, career decision making, career planning, and career implementation. For both the fitness and career regimens, the first session was devoted to current assessment and the second session was devoted to developing an individualized plan to achieve goals. As a bonus, it kept the participants in the eyes of professionals, and could control for the idea that professional involvement alone could be an impacting factor in the ART trials. Although they did not specifically have PTSD training, the goal setting environments they were in could be loosely compared to the goal of the ART group to be able to move past their problems. Additionally, they were able to set and work toward goals, which could allow for personal development.
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