Memory Reconsolidation Therapy for Police Officers with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

  • Nicholas L. Kerswell
  • Esben StrodlEmail author
  • Deanne Hawkins
  • Luke R. Johnson


Police officers are frequently exposed to traumatic events and therefore are at elevated risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions. While evidence-based treatments for PTSD such as prolonged exposure therapy demonstrate effectiveness, residual symptoms and relapse remain problematic outcomes. Improvements in outcomes may be enhanced by modifying psychotherapy processes based upon recent neuroscientific findings. The present study explored incorporating memory reconsolidation principles into evidence-based exposure therapy for PTSD to create memory reconsolidation therapy (MRT). MRT incorporates memory recall followed by a wait period to make memories liable for modification. Using a case series design, three police officers diagnosed with PTSD participated in a maximum of twelve 90-min sessions of MRT and recorded weekly self-report measures of trauma symptoms and psychological distress. Results indicated participants experienced significantly reduced psychological distress with gains maintained over a 3-month follow-up. A significant reliable reduction in trauma symptoms by post-therapy was identified in two of the three cases with the third narrowly missing the clinically significant cut-off. These significant changes were maintained over the 3-month follow-up in one participant, while the maintenance of these improvements in trauma symptoms approached significance in the other two participants. These findings provide preliminary evidence to justify larger future studies to test the efficacy of MRT with police officers experiencing PTSD.


Memory reconsolidation Trauma Post-traumatic stress disorder Police Psychological distress 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the university’s human research ethics’ committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Society for Police and Criminal Psychology 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Queensland University of TechnologyKelvin GroveAustralia
  2. 2.Queensland Police ServiceBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.University of TasmaniaLauncestonAustralia

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