Reconsolidation Therapy at CFIR: An Adjunct Treatment for PTSD

Reconsolidation Therapy is a short-term PTSD treatment for people who have been exposed to traumatic events (e.g., violence, accidents, rape, horrific scenes, combat-related experiences). First-line responders, such as police officers, firemen/women, military officers, paramedics, and medical staff, often have out-of-the-ordinary experiences that leave emotional residue and difficult memories. Events including (but not limited to) car accidents, violence, and sexual assault can result in traumatic memories that wreak havoc in our everyday lives. Reconsolidation Therapy treatment works by directly activating the traumatic memory of the event and uses both psychological and medical intervention to reduce PTSD.

Several evidence-based treatments address the problematic symptoms of PTSD, including more commonly used ones such as Exposure Therapy/CBT. While existing treatments have demonstrated their effectiveness, the distress associated with re-visiting traumatic memories can be daunting and result in some clients avoiding treatment. Reconsolidation Therapy is an add-on treatment that integrates aspects of existing evidence-based psychological treatments with medical intervention.

Here’s how it works:

Dr. Alain Brunet has developed reconsolidation therapy. Initial research findings suggest that this treatment can significantly reduce PTSD symptoms. This relatively new PTSD treatment uses a combination of six sessions of talk therapy under the influence of safe medication, a beta-adrenergic blocker known to lower blood pressure. In Reconsolidation Therapy, the medication essentially blocks the traumatic memory’s emotional arousal aspect from binding with details of the event. You will remember details of the events but with significantly less emotional intensity than before treatment.

Gradually, over four to six sessions lasting 25-30 minutes, the emotional distress associated with the memory shifts so that recollection of the event may be comfortable but no longer accompanied by the same amount of emotional distress. In short, this process does not change the memory but reduces the intensity of the emotional content.

Clinicians at CFIR who offer clinical services in the Trauma Psychology and PTSD Service now provide Reconsolidation Therapy as an adjunct treatment to current treatment protocols that are in use. (e.g., CBT, EMDR, psychodynamic, etc.).

Dr. Genevieve Boudreault, D.Psy, C.Psych. is a clinical psychologist at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR). Dr. Boudreault, C.Psych. provides psychological services to adults that have experienced traumatic events and are suffering from complex (C-PTSD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She is certified to practice Reconsolidation Therapy and supervises a team of therapists that provides these treatments to alleviate suffering associated with traumatic memories.