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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.


A German medical center has recently started using a newly developed treatment program for combat veterans dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Over an eight week course of day treatment, veterans develop new skills to deal with the disorder and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is used to treat it.  Although they are only on their second cycle of veterans they are seeing some success and veterans are reporting satisfaction.  One of the unique components of this particular treatment program is that it uses all of the evidence-based treatments for PTSD that are currently known.  On any given day, a veteran may participate in smoking cessation classes, yoga, EMDR, anger management and art therapy.  They are using all of the tools they have available to treat and deal with .

New PTSD program answers need for comprehensive treatment.  (July 2, 2009)  Retrieved July 4th, 2009.

Two year ago when Jon and I were talking about getting engaged, he brought up the idea of not getting a diamond engagement ring.  As I had at the time bought into the propaganda put out by the wedding industry about the “tradition” and “timelessness” of that magical diamond ring, I felt a bit put off.  However, Jon had done some research and found out more about the diamond wars and blood diamonds and together we decided that we did not want to so pointedly support an industry that funded civil war.  The Kimberly Process was already in place at this time, so hypothetically we could have avoided buying a blood diamond, but as the Kimberly Process was being monitored by the industry itself it seemed like a bit of a foregone conclusion to think that it would actually to a sufficient job stemming the flow of conflict diamonds into the marketplace.  Instead, we decided on a sapphire because blue is my favorite color.

Picture by Glen Stubbe

Picture by Glen Stubbe

True to our worries, a story in the BBC this past weekend reports the increasing concern that the Kimberly Process is not adequately addressing this concerns.  If you are thinking about getting engaged, or just buying a diamond for some other reason, I would like to encourage you to consider using a vintage diamond, a different stone, or a diamond alternative to avoid these concerns.  I love my sapphire ring and although others are sometimes confused by the lack of diamond on my left ring finger, I feel proud for taking a stand with Jon for our principles.

From BBC News:

August 2019
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