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Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Assessment and Systemic Treatment

The diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder focuses on an individual's symptoms and level of functioning, which describes the impact of the trauma but says little about the individual's prospects for recovery. An assessment that identifies what is needed for recovery and treatment requires the therapist to look beyond the individual survivor's personal strengths and weaknesses and examine his or her interpersonal environment, a major factor that tends to either facilitate or impede recovery. The interpersonal aspect of the survivor's recovery environment is usually discussed in terms of the family system, but it also can refer to friends, workmates, or even an inpatient milieu. The optimal recovery environment—whether an inpatient unit or a loving family—provides physical and emotional support, facilitates healthy coping, and decreases interpersonal stressors. ...

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