Prevailing theoretical models of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as exposure therapy (EXP) methodology suggest that recall of a trauma is crucial to altering the conditioned fear response associated with PTSD (Benito & Walther, 2015; Craske et al., 2008; Foa & Kozak, 1986). However, it is unclear whether limited recall of the event impacts the EXP process and treatment outcomes. This study examined whether incomplete trauma recall affected pre-treatment PTSD severity, Initial Fear Activation (IFA), Overall Fear Activation (OFA), Within-Session Habituation (WSH), Between-Session Habituation (BSH; overall extinction), average length of EXP sessions, number of EXP sessions, and post-treatment PTSD severity, in 166 veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn, who completed EXP treatment. Contrary to predicted outcomes, the extent of recall did not attenuate veterans' participation in EXP as measured by IFA, OFA, WSH and BSH. Furthermore, less recall did not result in more severe pre-treatment PTSD, longer EXP sessions, more EXP sessions, or attenuated treatment response, as measured by the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-IV (CAPS; Weathers, Ruscio, & Keane, 1999) and PTSD Checklist Military Version (PCL-M; Weathers, Huska, & Keane, 1991) at pre- and post-treatment. This suggests that veterans who are unable to recall aspects of their traumatic experience can engage successfully and benefit equally from EXP akin to veterans who experience less difficulty recalling trauma details. This research is the first to examine trauma recall in the context of the EXP process and contributes to the current body of literature that aims to address the question: For whom do treatments work?
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Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Sciences
Psychology; Clinical Psychology
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Campus-only Access)
Morrison, Krystal, "How Much is Enough? Trauma Recall and the Exposure Therapy Process" (2018). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 6267.
Restricted to the UCF community until December 2023; it will then be open access.