We're studying a new therapeutic technique for PTSD and trauma
Flash technique is a pleasant and engaging psychotherapeutic intervention that potentially reduces distress and other symptoms brought on by trauma.
We invite adults (20-60yrs) with a trauma memory, or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms or diagnosis, to help us investigate this treatment's feasibility and links to brain functions.
About flash technique
Described by other research study participants as pleasant, the treatment uses blinking, positive distraction and minimal exposure to trauma memories.
Previous research indicates flash technique is capable of reducing distress, PTSD symptoms, depression and anxious mood states.
Flash technique has been shown to be just as effective as EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing therapy) – a current leading treatment for PTSD. The level of participants’ exposure to the trauma memory is much less in flash technique than EMDR. Most people find the technique more tolerable and easier to engage in.
It is currently used in online and group settings to treat trauma (ie for refugees and military personnel from the Ukraine).
Who the study might be suitable for
You might choose to participate if you have a trauma memory you wish to work on as part of the intervention.
An example of a trauma memory may include (but is not limited to):
- an accident
- witnessing or experiencing violence or assault
- death or loss
- injury or hospitalisation
- nightmares or a disturbing experience
- a negative medical experience
- natural disaster
- a near miss
We seek participants who:
- Are aged 20-60 years
- Have a trauma memory that still causes distress
- Are with or without PTSD symptoms or a diagnosis
- Have no serious physical health conditions, cardiovascular disease, or neurological conditions
- Do not have suicidality, psychosis, bipolar disorder, severe substance abuse, or major depression
We seek participants who:
- Are aged 20-60 years
- Have a diagnosis of PTSD, or are experiencing PTSD symptoms yet to be diagnosed, OR have a trauma memory that still causes distress and are otherwise healthy
- Proficient in spoken and written English.
- Have no serious physical health conditions, cardiovascular disease or neurological conditions, such as, dementia, cognitive impairment, hypertension, stroke or Parkinson’s Disease.
- Do not currently have a serious mental health condition (suicidality, psychosis, bipolar, severe substance abuse, major depression.) Note. PTSD diagnoses, anxiety disorders and depression traits without suicidality are acceptable.
- Be available to attend the Thompson Institute for assessment and MRI scans.
- Be able to undergo MRI, undertake neuropsychological/cognitive assessments at UniSC’s Thompson Institute, and tolerate the therapy. Tolerability to the technique will be assessed by the psychologist/researcher, which will include a short training of the technique onsite at the Thompson Institute.
- Have basic computer skills and are able to learn and follow new instruction to engage in the technique. Have access to a computer in a private space.
- Have a trauma memory you wish to work on as part of the intervention. An example of a trauma memory may include (but is not limited to): accidents, witnessed or experience of violence or assault, death or loss, injury or hospitalisation, nightmares or a disturbing experience, natural disaster or near miss of at least a 6/10 distress level, when 0=no distress and 10=most distress
- Have not have a previous negative reaction to Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or Flash Technique.
- Are not currently pregnant or trying to conceive.
- Be willing or safely able to avoid illicit drug or alcohol use on the night before and day of flash technique therapy.
What participation involves
You will learn flash technique with the support of a registered psychologist and an easy-to-follow computer-based program.
Flash technique therapy will require participants to briefly remember the target (trauma) memory and rate its associated distress, before quickly moving on to an engaging and pleasant distraction, then blinking when prompted.
Participants also complete self-report questionnaire packs, engage in neurocognitive assessments, and undergo non-invasive MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the brain.
- Flash technique was specifically designed for highly distressing memories, and the technique utilises a small window of exposure before immediately engaging in a distraction to improve tolerance and decrease distress over time.
- This study will contribute to and extend the current literature regarding the neurobiological underpinnings of trauma/PTSD and novel treatment approaches such as flash technique. Participants may gain a better understanding of the neurological basis of trauma memory processing through a technique that has been described as safe and pleasant.
Research investigator, Stephanie Price, is a registered psychologist who has 10 years of clinical experience and specialises in trauma therapy. She has advanced training in flash technique. Some participants may experience some anxiety about flash technique due to it being a novel treatment. Stephanie is trained to manage this.
This study will be carried out at the Thompson Institute with collaboration with other experts:
- Associate Professor Zack Shan – Chief Investigator, Head of neuroimaging, Thompson Institute, Sunshine Coast, QLD
- Dr Christina Driver – Co-Investigator, Lecturer in Mental Health and Neuroscience, Thompson Institute, Sunshine Coast, QLD
- Dr Jacob Levenstein, Co-Investigator, Research Fellow, Thompson Institute, Sunshine Coast, QLD
- Dr Luke Ney – Co-Investigator, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD
- A trained MRI technician, Thompson Institute, Sunshine Coast, QLD
- A data scientist, Thompson Institute, Sunshine Coast, QLD
Research shows 74.9% of Australians will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime, this exposure increases the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Using a simple psychological technique, it may be possible to reduce the effect of trauma memories using a short intervention, which could minimise the risk of developing PTSD or other severe psychological disorders.
If these experiences are already part of PTSD, the technique has been shown to reduce or resolve PTSD symptoms in previous research.
The purpose of this research project is to understand the impact of flash technique on PTSD symptomology, and the brain mechanisms involved, to provide vital information for treatment of trauma.