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Treating traumatized offenders and veterans by means of narrative exposure therapy


Hecker, Tobias; Hermenau, Katharin; Crombach, Anselm; Elbert, Thomas (2015). Treating traumatized offenders and veterans by means of narrative exposure therapy. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 6:80.

Abstract

Violent offenders and soldiers are at high risk of developing appetitive aggression and trauma-related disorders, which reduce successful integration into societies. Narrative exposure therapy (NET) for forensic offender rehabilitation (FORNET) aims at reducing symptoms of traumatic stress (e.g., posttraumatic stress disorder) and controlling readiness for aggressive behavior. It follows the logic of the evidence-based trauma-focused NET with special emphasis on violent acts in past and future behavior. In NET, the therapist guides the client by means of exposure through his traumatic experiences in chronological order linking the negative emotions, such as fear, shame, and disgust, to the past context and integrating the traumatic experiences into the autobiographical memory. During FORNET, we also encourage verbalization of any positive emotions and experiences linked to past violent and aggressive behaviors. This recall of positive emotions (linked to the there and then) is contrasted with feelings that emerge during the narration process (here and now). In this way, the therapist helps the client to anchor the whole range of sensory and bodily experiences, cognitions, and emotions to the contextual cues. Over the process of the therapy, we support the client to begin the role change from a violent offender to a citizen, who is capable of living a non-violent and socially adjusted life. Finally, the client develops visions and wishes for the future to support a successful integration into society. Several studies with veterans and violent youths have proven the feasibility of FORNET, found evidence of a positive outcome (recovered mental health, fewer offenses committed, less drug intake, and improved integration into civil society), and highlighted the importance of addressing the whole range of experiences while treating violent offenders or veterans.

Abstract

Violent offenders and soldiers are at high risk of developing appetitive aggression and trauma-related disorders, which reduce successful integration into societies. Narrative exposure therapy (NET) for forensic offender rehabilitation (FORNET) aims at reducing symptoms of traumatic stress (e.g., posttraumatic stress disorder) and controlling readiness for aggressive behavior. It follows the logic of the evidence-based trauma-focused NET with special emphasis on violent acts in past and future behavior. In NET, the therapist guides the client by means of exposure through his traumatic experiences in chronological order linking the negative emotions, such as fear, shame, and disgust, to the past context and integrating the traumatic experiences into the autobiographical memory. During FORNET, we also encourage verbalization of any positive emotions and experiences linked to past violent and aggressive behaviors. This recall of positive emotions (linked to the there and then) is contrasted with feelings that emerge during the narration process (here and now). In this way, the therapist helps the client to anchor the whole range of sensory and bodily experiences, cognitions, and emotions to the contextual cues. Over the process of the therapy, we support the client to begin the role change from a violent offender to a citizen, who is capable of living a non-violent and socially adjusted life. Finally, the client develops visions and wishes for the future to support a successful integration into society. Several studies with veterans and violent youths have proven the feasibility of FORNET, found evidence of a positive outcome (recovered mental health, fewer offenses committed, less drug intake, and improved integration into civil society), and highlighted the importance of addressing the whole range of experiences while treating violent offenders or veterans.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:11 Dec 2015 15:26
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 15:27
Publisher:Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN:1664-0640
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2015.00080

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