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Trauma-Related Intrusions and Psychosis: An Information Processing Account

  • Craig Steel (a1), David Fowler (a2) and Emily A. Holmes (a3)

There is active, current speculation about the relationship between trauma and psychosis. However, little is known about the information-processing mechanisms underlying the development of trauma-related intrusions in this area. Our account highlights the role of contextual integration, i.e. the need for experiential information to be effectively integrated into a temporal and spatial context in order to facilitate voluntary recall. Drawing on existing models of both posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and psychosis (Brewin, 2001; Ehlers and Clark, 2000; Garety et al., 2001; Morrison, 2001), we propose a contextual integration account of trauma-related intrusions. It is argued that the strength of contextual integration, which occurs during encoding, influences the frequency and nature of subsequent intrusive experiences. Consequently, individual differences in schizotypal personality traits, which are known to be associated with levels of contextual integration, are also related to the phenomenology of trauma-related intrusions. Whilst intrusions can be seen to occur within a range of disorders, it is argued that contextual integration may be one key variable in understanding the relationship between an experienced trauma and any consequent psychiatric symptomatology. Implications for clinical interventions aimed at trauma-related psychosis are discussed, along with research aimed at developing the empirical basis for such interventions.

Corresponding author
Reprint requests to Craig Steel, Department of Mental Health Sciences, Royal Free and University College London Medical School, Holborn Union Building, Archway Campus, London N19 5LW, UK. E-mail:
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Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy
  • ISSN: 1352-4658
  • EISSN: 1469-1833
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioural-and-cognitive-psychotherapy
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