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Traumatic Stress: A Brief Literature Review

May 08

G’day all! Bright sunshine, cool temperatures, and brisk ocean breezes out here on (Northern) Vancouver Island. I can see it’s time to cease with the constructive criticism of your esteemed leader; viewership is beginning to diminish. (Or have you been intimidated?) Don’t worry he’ll provide another opportunity before to long! I’ll use this as an opportunity to begin a review of the literature on one of our favourite topics; posttraumatic stress. Hold on, I saw that roll of the eyes! If you are diagnosed with “PTSD”, or off work as a result of some stress related issue, you are the first one who should be reading this brief series (maybe 5 or 6 entries). There is a lot of misinformation in this area; as you know if you are a regular reader of Re-sergeance. And never forget, I am not offering you therapy here. I am presenting you with information that I don’t think you get in other places, or in other things you read.

I’ll use this post as an introduction to the focus I’ll bring to the subject area. As you have gathered by now one of my major clinical interests is posttraumatic stress; due to my work as a military and para-military (police) psychologist. It is essential that I remain abreast of the latest in the area. I seem to have run dry on other topics, so I figured you might like to ramble through the latest thinking in the area with me. Who knows we both may learn something?

The literature seems to hang together in a framework through which we can examine the development of resilience to trauma (don’t forget the notion of “PTSD” didn’t arrive on the clinical scene until 1980, at the insistence of the US military); including central issues surrounding the concept itself; studies of resilient children growing in challenging developmental contexts; the area of trauma and resilient coping “peri” (during) and “post” (after) exposure to life threatening stimuli; and the need to develop a generic model of posttraumatic resilience.

Existing theories in the area of traumatic stress and the literature on “PTSD” have established that there is a large variety of methods of coping with a traumatic exposure (I will not include a reference section with each installment. If you require references please get a hold of me and I will provide one for you.) The different models of traumatic stress, and the various ways that people cope provide a good place for us to begin examining the phenomenon of “resilience”. For example, “How do we bounce back from psychological trauma?” “What are the psychological mechanisms involved in resilience?” “What psychological factors are related to effective coping?”

Let’s leave it there for now. You are invited to come along for the ride. I think it will be informative for all. In the next installment we’ll see if we can pin down a definition of “resilience” (remember, that’s what this area was all about until the US military had to come up with a way to recognize returning Viet Nam veterans, and pressured the American Psychiatric Association to embrace “Combat Stress Disorder”(CSD), the precursor to “PTSD”).

I’ll leave you with this……


— Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Dr. Mike Webster
Registered Psychologist

One Comment
  1. Brother Shark suddenly came eye to eye with a pink, trembling “two-legger” who was out spear fishing. The “two-legger” was frozen in place with terror as the huge sandy-skinned beast moved closer. Brother Shark could see that the insignificant human was terrified. The monstrous beast decided to have some fun. He slowly swam face to face with the now pale, white, fisherman. As the human began his last words, Brother Shark said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing–the last of the human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”. And then the shark………..


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