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Diminishing the effect of stressful life events: The efficacy of trauma-focused interventions on PTSD and depression

Dominguez, Sarah K. (2020) Diminishing the effect of stressful life events: The efficacy of trauma-focused interventions on PTSD and depression. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

PDF - Whole Thesis
Embargoed until March 2022.


The link between childhood stressful life events (SLEs), such as neglect and abuse, and an increased likelihood of ill-health is well established. In this thesis, the evidence surrounding interventions to moderate this link was explored. Currently, literature to alleviate the impact of adversities focuses on severe SLEs resulting in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Psychological trauma-focused treatments (TFTs) are considered the gold standard evidence-based intervention for individuals with PTSD. In reviewing this evidence, discrepancies with regard to one TFT, eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), were detected, and errors within one leading guideline were identified. Reanalysis of the data correcting these errors, and using more robust methodology, confirmed that EMDR is at least as effective as other leading interventions. Examination of subsequent guidelines identified additional discrepancies, and sources of these differences were identified and discussed.

In examining the impact of TFTs on PTSD, a decrease in comorbid depressive symptoms was also noted. Due to the relationship between increased SLEs and an increased incidence of depression and the burden of disease caused by this disorder, the impact of TFTs on depression was also examined. Results from a randomised controlled trial and meta-analysis support the use of TFTs in this population.

In conclusion, this research clarifies the efficacy for EMDR as an evidence-based TFT for PTSD and supports the use of TFTs for individuals with depression. Future studies are recommended to increase our ability to diminish the ongoing impact of SLEs on physical and mental health via high-quality research and ongoing critical analysis.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Psychology, Counselling, Exercise Science and Chiropractic
United Nations SDGs: Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being
Supervisor(s): Drummond, Peter, Lee, Chris and Gouldthorp, Bethanie
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