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Freedom Steps

TARGET teaches a practical 7-step sequence of skills for processing and managing the trauma-related components of current stressful experiences (e.g., PTSD symptoms, rage, traumatic grief, survivor guilt, shame, interpersonal rejection, and existential/spiritual alienation). The skills are designed in a sequence mirroring the three phases of trauma treatment, summarized by an acronym (FREEDOM): self-regulation via Focusing (SOS: Slow down, Orient, Self-Check); processing current traumatic stress reactions via Recognizing current triggers, Emotions, and cognitive Evaluations, and, strength-based reintegration by Defining core goals, identifying currently effective responses (Options), and affirming core values by Making positive contributions.

A creative arts portion of the therapeutic curriculum--the Lifeline--is used throughout the group or individual sessions in order to facilitate nonverbal learning, self-expression, and social problem solving, as well as to engage narrative self-definition and autobiographical memory. Trauma memories often, but not always, are processed using the FREEDOM skill set, but this is done only when and if requested by the client and not as a required element of treatment. In group sessions, trauma memory processing is done primarily with a containment rather than exposure or exploration focus, in order to provide group members with the experience of self-regulating when flooded by intrusive re-experiencing or witnessing another group member do so.

In individual sessions, trauma memory processing is not done as an "exposure" protocol but to provide the client with guided experience in using information processing and affect regulation skills to identify personally meaningful aspects of memories and to integrate memories into narrative autobiographical memory. Most trauma memory processing in TARGET involves processing recent traumatic experiences or assisting clients in making explicit and manageable any recurrent intrusive memories which are largely implicit (e.g., felt in the body or re-experienced without conscious awareness through recurrent anxiety, anger, or dissociative reactions).

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