Memory-training as treatment for depression and PTSD


Earlier this year, I was updated on the latest new in the treatment of depression and PTSD. I use EMDR a lot, but this was an interesting addition to the therapeutic tools available. Empirical research show that people who remember specifics, like the color on your shoes when you were 8, or how an animal looked at the zoo, have happier life. For depression this “steals” meaning, if you can`t see earlies experiences, its also hard to imagine a future. When not depressed, most people will create emotional picture of what they dream of: Like how you will look in a wedding dress, the people who would come, and you might even dream up your husband to be. What would life be without memories connected to emotions?

Autobiographical memory and emotional disorder

ImageTo remember other incidents in specific detail might protect from PTSD

Autobiographical memory refers to our recollection of events in our past. Disturbed patterns of autobiographical memory, particularly for emotional events, are a cardinal feature of affective disorders. These difficulties range from intrusive flashbacks of traumatic events such as war, accidents, or interpersonal violence, in sufferers of PTSD, to ruminations upon general negative autobiographical themes such as failure and worthlessness in depression.

Such patterns not only define the mental lives of patients but drive the onset and maintenance of their problems. Consequently, clinical interventions that can target and reverse these maladaptive memory processes have enormous potential. One of our key research goals is therefore to elucidate the nature of autobiographical recollection in depression and PTSD, and to use these insights to refine and develop novel memory-focused treatments. Below are a couple of examples from this work.

Memory Specificity Training (MEST)

What are we investigating?

Patients with depression and PTSD find it relatively difficult to bring to mind specific, detailed auotbiographical memories of discrete emotional past events. Researc has shown that access to such memories is important in everyday mental life for problem-solving, social communication, emotional processing of distressing experiences, and future planning. Unsurprisingly then, reduced access to specific autobiographical memories disrupts day-to-day cognitive fucntioning and therefore plays a significant role in maintaining depression and in the onset of PTSD (Williams et al., 2007).

What are we doing?

ImageTreatment of PTSD will evoke memories, but if you try to bury them, you also bury other things that might help you and make you stronger!

These research findings suggest an elegantly simple clinical treatment for depression and PTSD  – training patients to become more specific in their emotional autobiographical recollection. Memory Specificity Training (MEST) is a 4-session group clinical intervention with precisely this aim. Patients undergoing MEST simply practice retrieving emotional and neutral specific memories to a variety of cues, both in session and at home.

What have we found?

We have conducted two clinical treatment trials of MEST. One for individuals with depression (Neshat-Doost et al., 2012) and one for individuals with PTSD. We found that MEST was successful in both cases in markedly reducing pateints’ symptoms and that the level of symptom improvement was directly related to how good they had become at retrieving specific memories.

Why is this important?

These findings are important for a number of resons. Firstly, the underline the importance for mental health of how we recollect autobiograhical memories. Secondly, MESt is a very straightforward treatment that is easy to deliver, and thus suitable for less experienced therapists, and cost-effective due to its group format. It is also suitbale for a rnage of clinical settings; for example our clinical trial with patients with PTSD was carried out in a shelter for refugees in a war zone.

Here is a interesting profile from pinterest with personal information about PTSD:

Understanding PTSDby Michele JanesAbout Grounding Techniques ~ Grounding is about learning to stay present in your body in the here & now. Basically it consists of a set of skills/tools to help you manage dissociation & the overwhelming trauma-related emotions that lead to it. Processing done from a very dissociated state is not useful in trauma work. Neither is the goal to be so overwhelmed by feelings that you feel re-traumatized. Every one is different and there are a variety of grounding techniques to choose from.Recovering from mental illness often makes us feel exhausted. This blog explores five reasons why.If I could tell you one thing..."mental disorders are NOT adjectives". This always bothers me.. That's me. Definitely today... :sAlexithymiaStory of my life...That's the truthFight like hellYES. I am an introvertI Am Anxiety- Pretty powerful video. I haven't watched it yet but plan to as soon as possible..ashamedyeah, what ^^^^ saysPTSD.......Pretty much :):/peanutsMindfulness...Child maltreatment has been called the tobacco industry of mental health. Much the way smoking directly causes or triggers predispositions for physical disease, early abuse may contribute to virtually all types of mental illness.Psychological abuse is a subtle method used to destroy a child's sense of well being, to instill fear or terror, or prevent, undermine or destroy confidence. The use of psychological abuse, brutality or torture on a growing child is most damaging. It prevents the child from being who they were born to be, and limits or destroys their ability to function normally in life. It is the most damaging of child abuse, without leaving any physical scars. fears

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2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Monitoring my mental health – June 2013 | Notes from a gay mentalist

  2. Pingback: What is PTSD and how to treat it: | Free psychology

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