Exploring the Trauma Membrane Concept



As part of the healing process in the aftermath of catastrophic stress, the trauma membrane forms as a temporary psychosocial structure to promote adaptation and healing. The trauma membrane acts as an intrapsychic and interpersonal mediator, interfacing between the person and the traumatic memories and everyday reminders of the traumatic event from the external world. Therapists work at the boundary of this psychological buffer zone. The multidimensional concept of a trauma membrane reflects intrapsychic, interpersonal, and communal processes that protect individuals and communities, such that a survivor network or individual survivor will invite or block access to mental-health intervention. The intrapsychic mechanism protects traumatized individuals from being subsequently overwhelmed by intrusive memories by cordoning off those memories until they can be handled by the individual’s adaptive psychic processes.

This chapter will explore the definition and history of the trauma membrane concept, the similarities and differences between the stimulus barrier and trauma membrane, its value as a metaphor, and how the recovery environment can facilitate its formation in the aftermath of a trauma. As a flexible analogy, the multi-level trauma membrane can help researchers and clinicians explain trauma-related processes and their clinical applications.


Traumatic Event Survivor Network Traumatic Memory Intrusive Memory Pleasure Principle 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RehabilityPortlandUSA
  2. 2.University of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA

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