Reducing analogue trauma symptoms by computerized reappraisal training - considering a cognitive prophylaxis?

J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2013 Sep;44(3):312-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2013.01.003. Epub 2013 Jan 30.


Background and objectives: Distressing intrusions are a hallmark of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Dysfunctional appraisal of these symptoms may exacerbate the disorder, and conversely may lead to further intrusive memories. This raises the intriguing possibility that learning to 'reappraise' potential symptoms more functionally may protect against such symptoms. Woud, Holmes, Postma, Dalgleish, and Mackintosh (2012) found that 'reappraisal training' when delivered after an analogue stressful event reduced later intrusive memories and other posttraumatic symptoms. The present study aimed to investigate whether reappraisal training administered before a stressful event is also beneficial.

Methods: Participants first received positive or negative reappraisal training (CBM-App training) using a series of scripted vignettes. Subsequently, participants were exposed to a film with traumatic content. Effects of the CBM-App training procedure were assessed via three distinct outcome measures, namely: (a) post-training appraisals of novel ambiguous vignettes, (b) change scores on the Post Traumatic Cognitions Inventory (PTCI), and (c) intrusive symptom diary.

Results: CBM-App training successfully induced training-congruent appraisal styles. Moreover, those trained positively reported less distress arising from their intrusive memories of the trauma film during the subsequent week than those trained negatively. However, the induced appraisal bias only partly affected PTCI scores.

Limitations: Participants used their own negative event as a reference for the PTCI assessments. The events may have differed regarding their emotional impact. There was no control group.

Conclusions: CBM-App training has also some beneficial effects when applied before a stressful event and may serve as a cognitive prophylaxis against trauma-related symptomatology.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Motion Pictures
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Self Report
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / prevention & control*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Therapy, Computer-Assisted / methods*