Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of attending a seminar on Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET) through the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, Family Social Science Department.  Narrative Exposure Therapy is a relatively new, but very effective, intervention for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  It was developed and is being used in mass trauma situations, like refugee camps.  Multiple experimental randomized, control studies demonstrate its effectiveness at eliminating PTSD for victims of multiple trauma events (Neuner, 2004; Onyut, 2005; van Minnen, 2002).

Narrative Exposure Therapy is conducted in a short series of structured sessions.  In the first, individuals participate in a diagnostic interview partially to evaluate for the presence of PTSD.  In the subsequent session, they asked to create their “lifeline” by laying out a length of rope and indicate positive events with flowers and negative events with rocks.  Subsequent sessions consist of explaining their “lifeline” with the inclusion of both their flowers and rocks.  They may also be asked to describe some of their hopes and dreams for the rest of their lives.

In each session, counselors record the individual’s life story and ask for corrections.  When counseling is completed, a digital photograph of their lifeline is taken.  Through the use of the lifeline, the traumatic event becomes integrated into the total narrative of the person’s life.

I ran into the literature for this approach earlier this year while I was working on a literature review with the U of M and was impressed by the elegance and effectiveness of the approach.  Attending the seminar really highlighted the theoretical basis, need and again, effectiveness.  I will probably be writing future posts about some of those other things from the seminar that really stood out to me.

Neuner, F., Schauer, M., Klaschik, C., Karunakara, U., & Elbert, T. (2004) A comparison of narrative exposure therapy, supportive counseling, and psychoeducation for treating Posttraumic Stress Disorder in an African refugee settlement. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72(4), 579-587

Onyut, L.P., Neuner, F., Schauer, E., Ertl, V., Odenwald, M., Schauer, M., & et. al. (2005) Narrative exposure therapy as a treatment for child war survivors with posttraumatic stress disorder: Two case reports and a pilot study in an African refugee settlement. BMC Psychiatry, 5(7).

van Minnen, A., Wessel, I., Dijkstra, T., & Roelofs, K. (2002) Changes in PTSD patients’ narratives during prolonged exposure therapy: A replication and extension. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 15(3), 255-258.