Health Mental health

I did Narrative Exposure Therapy

It has been quite a while since I last showed my face, but I’ve got good reason for it.

What happened?

In October 2019 I was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). After eleven (!) dreadful months on the waitlist, I was finally offered treatment in the summer of 2020. My last session happened April this year.

In the meantime, my entire life was upended. I’m not going to go into details about this because frankly it’s extremely exhausting, not just emotionally, but also because I’ve had to repeat this story over and over again in the past year. So, in this post, I aim to simply tell you what my treatment involved.

What is C-PTSD? Read more about it here.

What is Narrative Exposure Therapy?

Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET) is a trauma treatment, suitable for those coping with complex trauma, multi-trauma, non-visual trauma, or for people who are overly sensitive to stimuli, like people with autism.

As the term suggests, the idea is to expose oneself to all traumas in a story-telling way. However, the one thing that sets NET apart from other trauma treatments, is that it also focuses on positive events in one’s life. This should, in the end, create a feeling of balance.

How does NET treatment work?

In my first NET session I sat on the floor with my therapist and we drew a lifeline on the floor with a piece of ribbon. A number of objects are used to symbolise certain events in life: a flower for positive events, a stone for a difficult time, a candle for a significant death in your life. This lifeline must start at birth (you have to go into detail even about how your birth was) and logically ends where your life is now.

Then, the real work begins. I had to talk through every single event on my lifeline in therapy. Sessions are recorded so the therapist can transcribe them into a story on paper, which is then read back to you the following session. This is the exposure part.

At the very end of the treatment, all of your stories are gathered into one document and read to you in one go (if possible, mine took two or three sessions).

What has this experience been like?

This is a difficult question, because I’ve got so much to say about it. It’s also a very emotionally loaded answer, so I’m taking care not to pour all my energy into it right now. What I can say is that this treatment has had a major impact on my life.

I would like to write a second part to dive into my experiences a bit more. If you have any questions about it, I would love to address these in my next post as well. So please feel free to leave a comment or send me a message with your questions!*

More information

If you are worried about your mental health, please visit your GP.

*I will not be answering any personal questions such as “what was your trauma” or “why did you get PTSD”.

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