Demanding and effective: participants’ experiences of internet-delivered prolonged exposure provided within two months after exposure to trauma

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Maria Bragesjö, Filip K. Arnberg, Anna Jelbring, Johannes Nolkrantz, Josefin Särnholm, Klara Olofsdotter Lauri, Camilla von Below & Erik Andersson


Background: The use of remotely delivered early intervention after trauma may prevent and/or reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Our research group evaluated a novel three-week therapist-guided internet-delivered intervention based on prolonged exposure (Condensed Internet-Delivered Prolonged Exposure; CIPE) in a pilot trial. The results indicated that the intervention was feasible, acceptable and reduced symptoms of post-traumatic stress at post-intervention compared to a waiting-list condition. Exposure to traumatic memories can be emotionally demanding and there is a need for detailed investigation of participants’ experiences in receiving this type of intervention remotely.

Objective: Investigate participants’ experiences of receiving CIPE early after trauma.

Method: In this study, qualitative thematic analysis was used and semi-structured interviews with 11 participants six months after intervention completion were conducted. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim.

Results: One overarching theme labelled as ‘demanding and effective’ was identified. Participants expressed that treatment effects could only be achieved by putting in a lot of effort and by being emotionally close to the trauma memory during exposure exercises. Participants reported CIPE to be a highly credible- and educative intervention that motivated them to fully engage in exposure exercises. The most distressing parts of the intervention was perceived as tolerable and important to do to heal psychologically after trauma. For many participants, the possibility to engage in the intervention whenever and where it suited them was helpful, although some participants described it as challenging to find a balance between their own responsibility and when to expect therapist support. The internet-based format was perceived as a safe forum for self-disclosure that helped some participants overcome avoidance due to shame during imaginal exposure.

Conclusion: CIPE was considered demanding, yet effective by the interviewed participants. The most distressing parts of the intervention was perceived to be the most important and were tolerable and feasible to provide online.

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