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Carr, R.B. (2011). Combat and Human Existence: Toward an Intersubjective Approach to Combat-Related PTSD. Psychoanal. Psychol., 28(4):471-496.

(2011). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 28(4):471-496


Combat and Human Existence: Toward an Intersubjective Approach to Combat-Related PTSD

Russell B. Carr, M.D.

The author proposes a short-term, intersubjective model for treating combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Psychodynamic approaches to adult-onset PTSD lack the evidence and popularity of other approaches because adult-onset traumas are fundamentally distinct from the developmental, or childhood-based, traumas that psychoanalysis evolved to treat. An approach based in intersubjective systems theory can address this problem. The writings of Robert Stolorow (2007) in Trauma and Human Existence, which the author first read while deployed to Iraq as a psychiatrist, fundamentally changed his understanding of trauma and its treatment. The author gives an overview of Stolorow's ideas about trauma, and then describes his six-phase short-term intersubjective treatment approach. Extensive case material from a treatment that occurred in Iraq illustrates each of these phases. The author then compares his and Stolorow's views to those of other contemporary relational psychoanalytic writers. Future directions include the manualization and empirical testing of this approach in order to determine its replicability, its utility for therapists who lack extensive psychoanalytic training, and its generalizability to populations with adult-onset trauma outside the military.

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