Building ‘a compassionate armour’: the journey to develop strength and self‐compassion in a group treatment for complex post‐traumatic stress disorder
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Emily Ashfield Carmen Chan Deborah Lee. Building ‘a compassionate armour’: The journey to develop strength and self‐compassion in a group treatment for complex post‐traumatic stress disorder. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice April 2020.
Objectives. Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with severe difﬁculties in emotional regulation, interpersonal relationships, and shame. For individuals with these difﬁculties, exposure-based treatment for PTSD symptoms is less effective and can even be harmful. This study aimed to investigate the mechanisms of change at an individual and group level for individuals completing treatment for complex PTSD. Design. Constructivist grounded theory was used to develop an explanatory theoret- ical model of the change process. Methods. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 women with a diagnosis of complex PTSD who had completed the group treatment. Results. The theoretical model captured change as an ongoing journey, which continued after treatment ﬁnished. Participants identiﬁed three essential aspects of the group that brought about change. The ﬁrst was the group itself, in which valued relationships were formed. Additionally, participants described two key mechanisms – developing a comprehensive understanding of themselves and their difﬁculties, and experiencing their emotions and compassion from others. Conclusions. The key mechanisms of change were the relationships formed within the group and the need for a deeper understanding of the self in order to reduce shame and prepare for exposure-based treatment. Further support is provided for a phase-based approach to complex PTSD treatment. Psychoeducation alone, however, was not sufﬁcient, and it was also crucial that participants could safely access their emotions and experience compassion from others in order for change to come about.
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- Anxiety Disorders