Effects of processing positive memories on posttrauma mental health: A preliminary study in a non-clinical student sample
Date of Original Version
Background and objectives: Although trauma research and therapy primarily focus on traumatic memories, recent evidence indicates positive memory processes play a role in the etiology/maintenance of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity. We examined the effects of a novel positive memory processing technique on PTSD symptom severity, depression symptom severity, affect, posttrauma cognitions, and self-esteem. Methods: Sixty-five trauma-exposed participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions (narrating/processing vs. writing/processing two specific positive memories, or a time-matched control) and completed self-report measures pre- and post-task (T0). About one week later, participants repeated their assigned task condition and completed self-report measures pre- and post-task (T1). We conducted mixed ANOVAs to examine the impact of the technique on study variables over time. Results: The narrating condition had significant decreases in PTSD symptom severity, posttrauma cognitions, and negative affect from T0 pre-task to T1 post-task; and significant increases in positive affect from T0 pre-to-post-task and from T1 pre-to-post-task. The writing condition had significant increases in positive affect from T0 pre-to-post-task, but a significant decrease from T0 post-task to T1 post-task; and significant decreases in negative affect from T0 pre-to-post-task with an increase from T0 post-task to T1 post-task. Limitations: Use of self-report measures, non-clinical convenience sample with less gender/ethnic/racial diversity, small sample size, methodological differences in time frames for measures, and no examination of follow-up effects. Conclusions: Narrating and processing specific positive memories had a beneficial impact on PTSD symptom severity, posttrauma maladaptive cognitions, and affect; such results provide an impetus to examine positive memory interventions in trauma clinical work.
Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Contractor, Ateka A., Anne N. Banducci, Ling Jin, Fallon S. Keegan, and Nicole H. Weiss. "Effects of processing positive memories on posttrauma mental health: A preliminary study in a non-clinical student sample." Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 66, (2020). doi:10.1016/j.jbtep.2019.101516.