Broadening perspectives on trauma and recovery: a socio-interpersonal view of PTSD

Author(s): Andreas MAERCKER and Tobias HECKER

Abstract: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the very few mental disorders that requires by definition an environmental context—a traumatic event or events—as a precondition for diagnosis. Both trauma sequelae and recovery always occur in the context of social–interpersonal contexts, for example, in interaction with a partner, family, the community, and the society. The present paper elaborates and extends the social–interpersonal framework model of PTSD. This was developed to complement other intrapersonally focused models of PTSD, which emphasize alterations in an individual’s memory, cognitions, or neurobiology. Four primary reasons for broadening the perspective from the individual to the interpersonal–societal contexts are discussed. The three layers of the model (social affects, close relationships, and culture and society) are outlined. We further discuss additional insights and benefits of the social–interpersonal perspective for the growing field of research regarding resilience after traumatic experiences. The paper closes with an outlook on therapy approaches and interventions considering this broader social–interpersonal perspective on PTSD.

Key words: Post-traumatic stress disorder, interpersonal processes, social context, disclosure, social sharing

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