Narrative Exposure for PTSD Among Homeless

Narrative Exposure Therapy Study for PTSD Among the Homeless Population

The purpose of this study is to assess the acceptability and feasibility of delivering Narrative Exposure Therapy to homeless individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In Ottawa, in 2015, there were 6,825 people using 500,191 bed nights in the city emergency shelters (Alliance to End Homelessness in Ottawa 2015 Annual Report) with approximately another 500 sleeping on the streets (The Homelessness Community Capacity Building Steering Committee 2008 Ottawa, ON). Mental health disorders, including substance abuse, are common in this population, are often under treated and can be a source of considerable distress and disability. In addition to the high rates of mental disorder, there are three other significant factors which impact morbidity. First, a history of significant childhood trauma is common which impacts relationships and ability to cope with difficulties. It is increasingly recognized that a trauma informed approach to providing services to the homeless population is needed. There have been no randomized controlled trials of treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder in the homeless population. Second, brain dysfunction from head injuries and attention deficit disorder appear to be common. Problems with brain dysfunction can cause difficulties especially with attention, impulsivity and managing relationships. Finally, life for the marginally housed can be chaotic with day-to-day uncertainty over accommodation, income and security. This means that providing health services to this population requires a degree of flexibility in terms of who provides services, where and when. These issues result in a population with complex needs that traditional mental health care is poorly equipped to serve. At present there is a clear gap in the provision of services that address the experience of trauma in homeless individuals. There are no services for trauma in publicly funded hospitals, which leaves private providers as the sole source of treatment. Other potential barriers include accounting for the effects of substance abuse, brain injury and "chaos" in this population. What the investigators are proposing is a pilot study to assess the feasibility and acceptability of providing a time-limited assessment and therapy (six sessions) within the shelter system to homeless individuals diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

No pharmaceutical medication involved
Recruiting patients only

Narrative Exposure Therapy

Narrative Exposure Therapy attempts to place the trauma within a narrative of the person's life. Anecdotal evidence of using this approach in the homeless population is that constructing an autobiography helps to give meaning to their problems and provide the initial steps in constructing a core sense of belonging and identity. Six sessions of individual therapy allows for participants to work with a therapist one-on-one to position their experiences of trauma within their life story.

Genealogical Services

At the start of their involvement in the, study participants randomized to this group will be provided with the option to access services from a professional genealogist, to trace their family history. Participants will be made aware of the fact that new family information will be revealed through this process, and also be informed of the standard methods that will be used to extract this information which could involve research through publicly available historical records or voluntary DNA test more on

Protocol for a Feasibility Study of Narrative Exposure Therapy in Homeless Individuals With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder