40 Pages

Retrieving, Assessing, and Classifying Traumatic Memories: A Preliminary Report on Three Case Studies of a New Standardized Method

WithJames W. Hopper, Bessel A. van der Kolk

This chapter provides a new standardized method that incorporates a laboratory procedure for retrieving memories of traumatic events and a clinically informed measure for assessing these memories' characteristics. It presents a new method for evoking traumatic memories and assessing some of their basic characteristics. The chapter suggests that progress toward an empirically derived taxonomy of traumatic memories will be advanced by more attention to the following: memory retrieval or evocation methods, and instruments for assessing memory characteristics. The notion of prematurely inhibited processing of traumatic memories, that is, the sustained and automatic suppression of situationally accessible or intrusive fragmentary memories, is an uncommon one in the literature on psychological trauma. Characteristics of traumatic memories were prospectively assessed by script-driven remembering and a brief structured interview, and compared for differences between pre- and post-treatment. Distressing memories are the hallmark of posttraumatic stress disorder.