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Section 1
The Psychology of Disaster and Trauma

Question 1 | Test | Table of Contents


It is estimated that 70% of adults in the United States have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lives. An estimated 5% of Americans have PTSD at any given time. Specifically for people that have experienced a natural disaster traumatic event, the estimated risk for developing PTSD is 3.8%. Other trauma responses other than PTSD can develop after a natural disaster traumatic event as well. How can we help this population of people process their experience and the trauma that arises?

To begin this course, let us go over some basic, but important, information about what trauma is. Mainly when you think of natural disaster traumas you probably think of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, etc. See if you agree that what all of these have in common are the following eight criteria.
1. Trauma makes your client realize that you could have died.
2. Trauma makes you feel vulnerable, defenseless, and paralyzed.
3. Trauma is abrupt and overpowering. You don’t own it, it owns you.
4. Trauma occurs at any time you experience extreme fear, no matter how long.
5. Trauma causes you to not think clearly.
6. Trauma has a life-threatening and sudden quality that makes it more than just stress.
7.Trauma shocks the whole system which creates a state of emergency.
8. Trauma is an event with a predictable aftermath.

A traumatic memory is like an engraving on the brain. It is a clear, distinct, vivid image that is like a photograph rather than a movie because it stands on its own.

In this section we will discuss some basic information about trauma and 10 reasons you can discuss with your client why they could not have prevented the natural disaster trauma.

During the hurricane, Julie, age 30, was in the hospital getting ready to give birth to her son. Thankfully, the hospital Julie was at was spared but her home was not. Julie, her husband, and her newborn had no home when they left the hospital. "Everything was taken away from us," Julie said upset and with tears in her eyes. When she came in to see me, she was overwhelmed by taking care of a newborn while living in temporary housing. She was upset about her thoughts of giving up her baby and giving him to a family that was better off than she and her husband were. She felt terrible and could not forgive herself for having these thoughts, even though she had no intention of following through with them.

Unpreventable Traumas
When it comes to trauma, most clients, like Julie, find it hard to forgive themselves. They end up putting the blame on themselves for their traumatic experience. However, there are many reasons that clients could not prevent his or her trauma from happening. While this is common sense, I find the unpreventablitity of a trauma is an important idea to review with my client.

Here is just a brief list of 10 reasons that your client could not have prevented the traumatic event from happening whether the trauma is a natural disaster, rape, mugging, combat, etc:
1. they were not old enough or physically capable enough or they were outnumbered
2. they did not have the help they needed at the time
3. someone other than your client made a mistake
4. they were a part of an unpreventable act of nature (this is crucial for clients that are dealing with natural disaster trauma)
5. no warnings or alerts were given to them (another important one for natural disaster trauma clients)
6. they did not have the necessary legal rights
7. they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time
8. they were lied to, threatened, or coerced
9. they were not given correct or sufficient information or training
10. they dissociated or froze

The factor of Julie’s uncontrollability is she, her husband, and her baby were part of an unpredictable act of nature. Another way to look at this is, her family dwelling was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.

In this section, we have discussed some basic information about trauma and 10 reasons you can discuss with your client why they could not have prevented the natural disaster trauma.

In the next section we will discuss strategies to use during the trauma. They include situational evaluation, vital self-care actions, and self-evaluation of shutting down or fading out.

Question: What are the ten reasons you can share with your client to explain how your client could not have prevented his/her traumatic event from happening?
Answer: they were not old enough or physically capable enough or they were outnumbered; they did not have the help they needed at the time; someone other than your client made a mistake; they were a part of an unpreventable act of nature; no warnings or alerts were given to them; they did not have the necessary legal rights; they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time; they were lied to, threatened, or coerced; they were not given correct or sufficient information or training; and they dissociated or froze

Source: Rothschild
statistic source: http://www.ptsdalliance.org/about_what.html

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Fox, J., Gupta, R., & Mitchell, G. (2018). Considering developmental concepts from attachment theory to inform graduate student training in global trauma and disaster psychology. International Perspectives in Psychology: Research, Practice, Consultation, 7(3), 189–201.

Kaniasty, K. (2012). Predicting social psychological well-being following trauma: The role of postdisaster social support. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 4(1), 22–33.

Saari, S., Karanci, A. N., Yule, W., & EFPA Standing Committee on Disaster, Crisis, and Trauma Psychology. (2011). EFPA and work on disaster, crisis, and trauma psychology. European Psychologist, 16(2), 141–148. 

QUESTION 1
What is a traumatic memory? To select and enter your answer go to Test.


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