The role of modifying schemas in trauma-focused psychotherapy has received theoretical and clinical attention. However, the relationship of schematic processing to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis has not been examined empirically. The current study compared measures of thematic disruption among individuals with PTSD alone, PTSD with concurrent complex PTSD, and no PTSD. Eighty two participants were interviewed to assess PTSD status, complex PTSD status, traumatic life events, and trauma-related thematic processing. Results indicated that variables quantifying thematic disruption and thematic resolution significantly distinguished those individuals with concurrent PTSD plus complex PTSD from the other two groups. Exploratory analyses indicated that PTSD symptom severity and the interpersonal nature of the trauma were related to thematic disruption.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Dansky, B. S. (1991). Recovery from sexual trauma: The influence of coping, social support, affect, and cognitive schemata on psychological well-being. Unpublished doctoral dissertation.
Dansky, B. S., Roth, S., & Kronenberger, W. G. (1990). The trauma constellation identification scale: A measure of the psychological impact of a stressful life event. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 3, 557–573.
DeRosa, R. R., Roth, S., Caddell, J. M., Schlenger, W. E., Fairbank, J. A., & Davidson, J. (1995). Disaster and the meaning of the traumatic experience: Implications for the development and maintenance of PTSD. Submitted for publication.
Epstein, S. (1991). The self-concept, the traumatic neurosis, and the structure of personality. In D. J. Ozer, J. M. Healy, Jr., & A. J. Stewart (Eds.), Perspectives on personality (Vol. 3) (pp. 63–98). London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Falsetti, S. A., Resnick, H. S., Kilpatrick, D. G., & Freedy, J. R. (1994). A review of the Potential Stressful Events Interview: A comprehensive assessment instrument of high and low magnitude stressors. The Behavior Therapist, 17, 66–67.
Foa, E. B., & Riggs, D. S. (1993). Post traumatic stress disorder in rape victims. In J. M. Oldham, M. B. Riba & A. Tasman (Eds.), American Psychiatric Press review of psychiatry: Vol. 12, Washington D.C.: American Psychiatric Press.
Foa, E. B., Rothbaum, B.O., & Steketee, G. S. (1993). Treatment of rape victims. Special Section: Rape. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 8, 256–276
Foa, E. B., Steketee, G., & Olasov-Rothbaum, B. (1989). Behavioral/cognitive conceptualizations of post-traumatic stress disorder. Behavior Therapy, 20, 155–176.
Herman, J. L. (1992a). Trauma and recovery. New York: Basic Books.
Herman, J. L. (1992b). Complex PTSD: A syndrome in survivors of prolonged and repeated trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 5, 377–391.
Horowitz, M. J. (1986). Stress response syndromes (2nd ed.). Northvale, NJ: Aronson.
Horowitz, M., Wilner, N., & Alvarez, W. (1979). Impact of Event Scale: A measure of subjective stress. Psychosomatic Medicine, 41, 209–218.
Janoff-Bulman, R. (1992). Shattered assumptions: Towards a new psychology of trauma. New York: The Free Press.
Kilpatrick, D. G., Resnick, H. S., & Freedy, J. R. V. (1991). Potential Stressful Events Inventory. Charleston, SC: Crime Victims Treatment and Research Center, Medical University of South Carolina.
Kilpatrick, D. G., Resnick, H. S., Freedy, J. R., Pelcovitz, D., Resick, P., Roth, S., & van der Kolk, B. (in press). The posttraumatic stress disorder field trial: Evaluation of the PTSD construct: Criteria A through E. In T. A. Widiger, H. A. Frances, M. B. First, R. Roth, & W. Davis (Eds.), DSM-IV sourcebook (Volume IV). Washington DC; American Psychiatric Press.
Kulka, R. A., Schlenger, W. E., Fairbank, J. A., Hough, R. L., Jordan, B. K., Marmar, C. R., & Weiss, D. S. (1990). Trauma and the Vietnam war generation: Report of findings from the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
Lebowitz, L., & Newman, E. (1996). The role of cognitive-affective themes in the assessment and treatment of trauma reaction. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy: An International Journal of Theory and Practice, 3, 196–207.
Lebowitz, L., & Roth, S. (1994). I felt like a slut: The cultural context and women's response to being raped. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 7, 363–390.
Lifton, N., Newman, E., Lebowitz, L., & Roth, S. (1996). Thematic assessment measurement system. Unpublished manual.
McCann, I. L., & Pearlman, L. A. (1990). Psychological trauma and the adult survivor: Theory, therapy, and transformation. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
McFall, M. E., Smith, D. E., Rozwell, D. K., Tarver, D. J., & Malas, K. L. (1990). Convergent validity of measures of PTSD in Vietnam combat veterans. American Journal of Psychiatry, 147, 645–648.
Newman, E. (1992). The process of recovery in adult female survivors of childhood sexual abuse: Schema affect, and symptom change. Unpublished doctoral dissertation.
Newman, E. (forthcoming). Narrative, gender, and recovery from childhood sexual abuse. In. J. Radner & P. Stewart (Eds.) Women and storytelling.
Newman, E., Orsillo, S. M., Herman, D. S., Niles, B. L., & Litz, B. (1995). The clinical presentation of disorders of extreme stress in combat veterans. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 183, 664–668.
Pearlman, L. A., MacIan, P. S., Johnson, G., & Mas, K. (1990, August). Understanding cognitive schemas across groups: Empirical findings and their implications. Paper presented at the Eighth Annual Meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Los Angeles, CA.
Pelcovitz, D., van der Kolk, B., Roth, S., Mandel, F., Kaplan, S., & Resick, H. (1997). Development of a criteria set and a structured interview for disorders of extreme stress. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 10, 3–16.
Resick, P., & Schnicke, M. K. (1992). Cognitive processing therapy for sexual assault victims. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 60, 748–756.
Roth, S., & Cohen, L. J. (1986) Approach, avoidance, and coping with stress. American Psychologist, 41, 813–819.
Roth, S., & Lebowitz, L. (1988). The experience of sexual trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 4, 279–299.
Roth, S., Lebowitz, L., & DeRosa, R. (1996). Thematic assessment of post-traumatic stress reactions. In J. P. Wilson & T. M. Keane (Eds.), Assessing psychological trauma and PTSD (pp. 512–528). New York: Guilford Press.
Roth, S., & Newman, E. (1991). The process of coping with trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 4, 279–297.
Roth, S., & Newman, E. (1992a). The role of helplessness in the recovery process for sexual trauma survivors. Canadian Journal of Behaviour Science, 24, 220–232.
Roth, S., & Newman, E. (1992b). Coding manual for measuring the process of coping with sexual trauma. Unpublished manuscript.
Roth, S., & Newman, E. (1993). The process of coping with incest for adult survivors. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 8, 363–377.
Roth, S., Newman, E., Pelcovitz, D., van der Kolk B.A., & Mandel F. S. (1996). Complex PTSD in victims exposed to sexual and/or physical abuse: Results from the DSM-IV field trial for posttraumatic stress disorder. Submitted for publication.
Schwarzwald, J., Solomon, Z., Weisenberg, M., & Mikulincer, M. (1987). Validation of the Impact of Event Scale for psychological sequelae of combat. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 251–256.
Spitzer, R., Kaplan S., & Pelcovitz D. (1989). Victimization disorder. New York: New York Psychiatric Institute.
Spitzer, R. L., Williams, J. B., Gibbon, M., & First, M. B. (1990). Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R—patient edition (SCID-P). New York: Biometrics Research Department, New York State Psychiatric Institute.
Terr, L. (1991) Childhood traumas: An outline and overview. American Journal of Psychiatry, 148, 10–20.
van der Kolk, B., Pelcovitz, D., Herman, J. L., Roth, S., Kaplan, S., & Spitzer, R. L. (1992). The Complicated PTSD Inventory. Unpublished measure.
van der Kolk, B., Pelcovitz, D., Roth, S., Mandel, F., McFarlane, A., & Herman, J. L. (1996). Dissociation, somatization, and affect dysregulation: The complexity of adaptation to trauma. American Journal of Psychiatry, 153, 83–93.
van der Kolk, B. A., Roth, S., Pelcovitz, D., Kaplan, S., Mandel, F., & Resick P. (1992). Report of the findings of the DSM-IV PTSD Field Trial for the disorders of extreme stress—NOS (DESNOS) category. Unpublished report.
World Health Organization (1994). The ICD 10 classification of mental and behavioural disorders with glossary and diagnostic criteria for research. Washington DC: American Psychiatric Press.
Zilberg, N. J., Weiss, D. S., & Horowitz, M. J. (1982). Impact of Event Scale: A cross validation study and some empirical evidence supporting a conceptual model of stress responses syndromes. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 50, 407–414.
About this article
Cite this article
Newman, E., Riggs, D.S. & Roth, S. Thematic Resolution, PTSD, and Complex PTSD: The Relationship Between Meaning and Trauma-Related Diagnoses. J Trauma Stress 10, 197–213 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1024873911644
- disorders of extreme stress