How do clients experience reliving as part of trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder?


Dr Vanessa Shearing, Papworth Hospital, Papworth Everard, Cambridgeshire, CB23 3RE, UK (e-mail:


Objectives. Reliving is an integral part of trauma-focused cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), a recommended treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with a convincing evidence base supporting its use. However, the literature suggests that clinicians are reluctant to use reliving in therapy. The aim of this study was to explore participants’ experiences of undergoing reliving as part of CBT for PTSD in order to further clinicians’ understanding of client experiences of reliving.

Design. This was a qualitative study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and the transcripts analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) (Smith, Jarman, & Osborn, 1999).

Method. Seven participants who had completed the reliving component of trauma-focused CBT in the previous month were recruited through therapists working in specialist trauma services, and semi-structured interviews were conducted using a topic guide. The transcripts were analyzed using IPA to enable the research questions to be addressed.

Results. Three super-ordinate themes and 11 subordinate themes were developed to reflect participants’ common and distinct experiences. The three super-ordinate themes were ‘overcoming ambivalence’, ‘painful but achievable’, and ‘positive change’.

Conclusions. This study provided useful information about participants’ experiences of reliving during CBT for PTSD. Clinical implications regarding the therapeutic relationship, preparing clients for reliving, and the impact of reliving were suggested. Implications for future research were identified including extending the score of the study, exploring differences in participants’ experiences, and exploring unexpected findings.