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Psychological and Physiological Responses to Traumatic Memories in STARTTS’ clients

Psychological and Physiological Responses to Traumatic Memories in STARTTS’ clients

Integration of traumatic experiences into existing memory scheme is greater under the strong and intense emotional reaction. The intense emotion cause memory of the particular event to be dissociated from consciousness and to be stored as: a) visceral (intuitive) sensations (anxiety, panic) or/and b) visual images (nightmares/flashbacks). It 1889 Pierre Janet determined that a fundament of mental activities is a storage and categorisation of incoming sensations that are stored into the memory; today known as semantic- declarative memories. Once the traumatic experience was integrated into the existing mental schemata it will no longer be accessible as a separate entity, it will however be distorted by the experiences prior and by the emotional state of the time of the recall. Traumatic memories are state dependent. Increased arousal provokes traumatic memories, sensory information and behaviour associated with prior traumatic experiences. Thus the arousal is increased in clients who were previously exposed to high stress, fears, avoidance and whose experiences were incorporated into their mental schemata in a form of somatic and symbolic memory.
Physiological response to trauma is based on a release of Norepinephrine (NE) a neurotransmitter released from the Locus Coeruleus (LC). NE is released: a) into the hypothalamus, which increases arousal and body defences by the Behavioural Facilitating System (BFS), activating CNS into the state of emergency; and b) into the Septo-Hippocampal System where mental activities are stored and categorised.   When NE is high it increases physiological arousal, that can trigger traumatic memories. Re-experiencing traumas in a form of nightmares/ and flashbacks cause re-releasing of stress hormones; which reduce memory creating “Black Wholes” (Pitman & Orr, 2007). High level of hormones at the time of trauma plays a role in a Long Term Potentiation (LTP) and over-consolidation of traumatic memories. Endogenous stress hormones affect strength of memory consolidation. NE, endorphin and oxytocins inhibit memory consolidation and create amnesia.
T&T Survivors are aroused being brought to a particular state of mind, back to traumatic experiences, State Dependent Memory in which the traumatic material could be easily accessible and treated.
Areas of Interest / Categories: Anxiety, STARTTS 2011, Torture and Trauma


Psychoeducation as an integrative part of therapy with clients who suffer from PTSD

Evidence suggests that even basic information about trauma related symptoms and issues can help traumatised people to understand their traumatic experiences and to make sense of their symptoms. How the clients react to the intrusions depends on how they view the nature of these symptoms. This lecture defines psychoeducation and explains the use of techniques in clarifying and reframing that can assist clients to correct their misconceptions about trauma symptoms and disorders. It is important for clients to understand that people who suffer PTSD often re-experience the traumatic events through intrusive thoughts and ideation, through dreams as traumatic nightmares, and sometimes even through flashbacks.

Strengthening clients’ capacities and sustainability by utilising Neurofeedback therapy in a Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) symptomatology

This paper focuses on the consequences of torture and war in different populations and deals with the new strategies implemented by the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors ( to overcome trauma related psychological symptoms of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD).   This presentation aims to emphasis Neurofeedback as one of the approaches of STARTTS’ Bio-Psycho-Social Model in order to strengthen clients’ capacities making them more sustainable to deal with complex PTSD, by regulating the clients’ nervous system. 

Psychosocial Impact of the 'War on Terror' on Muslims Settling in Australia

The trauma, shock and suffering experienced through the recent acts of terrorism, such as September 11th and the subsequent ‘War on Terror’, has had an enomorous psychosocial impact on Muslims resettling in Australia. Many have experienced re-traumatisation accompanied by severe posttraumatic symptoms, grief and loss reactions, anger, resentment, survivor guilt, anxiety and depression. However, the situation has become further complicated through the association of terrorism with Islam and being Muslim  It has become common to hear reports of stigmatization, fear, rejection, harassment and discrimination experienced by  Muslims.

Psychological Assessment of Torture and Trauma Survivors

The aim of the presentation is to highlight importance as well as complexity of the psychological assessment of torture and trauma survivors treated at the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS). STRATTS’ clients have experienced multiple traumas; being severely maltreated and persecuted. They face difficulties on the individual, family, community and society levels, suffering from chronic general health conditions and dealing with severe psychological symptoms.

The Anatomy of Rape. Rebuilding dignity in the face of shame and dishonour

This paper is based on 18 years of field experience in Asia, Africa, and Australia, researching the rape and sexual abuse of refugee and IDP women and girls in conflict situations, camps and urban refugee settings. These actions are often  based on notions of depriving women of “honour” and thus shaming individuals, families and communities. In some cases it is used as a form of ethnic cleansing.

A psychodynamic, play-centred approach to work with a refugee child (Case study)

This lecture presents a case study using a psychodynamic model  for therapeutic work with a refugee child from Iraq.  The model draws on parent and teacher interviews, transference and counter-transference phenomena, and play behaviour to formulate a hypothesis about the causes of the child’s anxieties.  Importantly, the value of play and playfulness is emphasised throughout therapy.  

Implementing a whole school approach to supporting students of refugee background.

Schools are in an excellent position to support children, young people and families of refugee background in their resettlement and recovery from trauma.VFST prioritises supporting schools through the