Psychological dynamics affecting traumatic memories: Implications in psychotherapy

The search to understand response to trauma has turned to the contribution of personality factors. The way people process the stressor event is critical in determining whether a trauma will be configured or not. Neuroscience shows that the brain does not store memories, but traces of information that are later used to create memories, which do not always express a completely factual picture of the past experience. Whenever an event is retrieved, it may undergo a cognitive and emotional change. Psychological dynamics – emotional interpretative tendency that affects the internal dialogue related to a meaningful event – may influence the development of positive or negative outcomes after stressor events.We postulate that therapists must see beyond the traumatic event itself and work with the internal dialogues that maintain the pathological relationship with the past episode. Thus, they may better treat traumatized patients by therapeutically rebuilding the memory. A brief clinical case is presented to show how exposure-based and cognitive restructuring therapy may help trauma victims experience psychological growth from their negative experiences, by fostering healthy psychological dynamics.

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