Challenges and Opportunities of Evaluating Multi-Sensory Approaches for Trauma Recovery in Survivors of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence

Friday, January 16, 2015: 4:30 PM-6:15 PM
Balconies L, Fourth Floor (New Orleans Marriott)
Cluster: Violence Against Women and Children
Kim Anderson, PhD, University of Missouri-Columbia, Abigail J. Rolbiecki, MPH, MSW, University of Missouri-Columbia and Jennifer R. Shearin, University of Missouri-Columbia
The aim of this roundtable session is to discuss the challenges and opportunities of studying innovative interventions that enhance recovery for survivors of sexual assault, stalking, and/or domestic violence.  The roundtable organizers have each adapted multi-sensory approaches (i.e., Digital Storytelling, PhotoVoice, and iRest meditation) for trauma recovery with survivors of trauma.   Two of the multi-sensory approaches selected had never been used as a therapeutic intervention (Digital Storytelling, PhotoVoice) even though they both have potential healing benefits (e.g., consciousness-raising of social problems, empowerment for the storyteller), and the third approach (iRest meditation) had never been applied to survivors of domestic violence.  In adapting and evaluating such interventions, insights have been gained regarding mixed methods research designs for novel clinical interventions with trauma survivors. 

A problem with processing, organizing, and integrating traumatic memories seems to be that they lack verbal properties and therefore cannot be effectively communicated or organized. Consequently, individuals often do not speak or write plainly about their trauma. Therefore, many individuals may need to find another avenue, another expression, to discover their voices.   Digital storytelling and PhotoVoice provide such a means as they integrates narration, images (e.g., photographs), text, and music to help “tell” one’s story of trauma and recovery.  An additional challenge of integrating a traumatic event into one’s self-structure is the constriction or numbing of emotions to manage unbearable pain.  Contributing to forgetting or protective blocking is the pressure for secrecy. iRest mediation assists individuals to integrate disconnected functions such as cognition, memory, and emotion.  In using these multi-sensory approaches, traumatic reactions may be prevented, lessened, and/or ameliorated that individuals otherwise might carry with them throughout their lives.

Opportunities of adapting multi-sensory approaches from a non-therapeutic to a therapeutic setting:  1) broaden clinical intervention for trauma recovery to include social action, 2) go beyond symptom reduction to assist survivors to reconstruct their narratives, reconnect with their inner resources, and, consequently, reclaim their identities, and 3) enhance the mind-body connection. 

Challenges of adapting multi-sensory approaches from a non-therapeutic to a therapeutic setting:  1) decisions regarding such approaches on whether it should be a stand-alone intervention or integrated within an existing evidence based intervention, 2) decisions regarding type of research design (e.g., single subject, case study, experimental/control) with small sample sizes, 3)  decisions about a comparison/control group, and 4) decisions about collecting both quantitative and qualitative data and how this impacts the therapeutic process. 

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