Computer-Based Perspective Broadening Support for Appraisal Training: Acceptance and Effects

Computer-Based Perspective Broadening Support for Appraisal Training: Acceptance and Effects

Ursula M. Beer (Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands), Mark A. Neerincx (TNO and TU Delft, The Netherlands), Nexhmedin Morina (Institute of Psychology, University of Münster, Germany) and Willem-Paul Brinkman (Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/IJTHI.2020070106


Post-traumatic stress affects millions of people worldwide. Appraisal training is an intervention that has been used to decrease the negative effects of a traumatic event. In two studies, the acceptance and effects of technology in supporting appraisal was studied. Study 1, a descriptive study, examined the response to and acceptance of a workshop on perspective broadening with technological support among soldiers and firefighters. Results revealed that both groups evaluated the training as useful and feasible, and both favoured the full version of the tool. Study 2 investigated the effect of the support tool among a student sample in comparison to the paper-based training. Participants followed the training individually. Comparisons between the two groups revealed no significant differences on multiple outcome measures. Behaviour observed during the training suggests that shorter sessions might prove more effective. The findings indicate acceptance of the technology supported training but gives no indication that the effects of the training are improved by technological support.
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Most people experience one or more traumatic events during their lifetime (Kessler et al., 1995; Perkonigg et al.., 2000). Exposure to traumatic events can lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health problems. PTSD is a mental disorder that can occur after experiencing traumatic events. PTSD symptoms include repeated intrusive memories or distressing dreams, avoiding reminders of the event that might bring on distressing memories, increased arousal and reactive symptoms, and negative cognitions and emotions (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Furthermore, PTSD can co-occur with other mental health problems such as depression, suicide, or substance abuse (Kilpatrick et al., 2003; Morina et al., 2013; Pietrzak et al., 2011). Along with the great cost on a personal or familial level, this disease is a high cost to society.

Psychological interventions can effectively treat PTSD (Bisson et al., 2013; Morina et al., 2016). Current approaches to treatment include but are not limited to exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing, and psychopharmacotherapy (Bisson et al., 2013). However, these often reach only a limited number of individuals with PTSD, and at this point - after the fact - the individual has already suffered greatly. Interventions aiming at preventing PTSD before experiencing the trauma may prevent subjective suffering and reduce societal costs related to PTSD.

A possible approach to addressing these limitations is through providing individuals with the cognitive tools, through appraisal training, before experiencing a traumatic event. Lazarus and Folkman (1984) described coping as a person’s thoughts and behaviors that manage the demands of a situation that is appraised as stressful. Changing the way you feel by changing the way you think is a powerful coping strategy. This thought process is referred to as reinterpretation or reappraisal and is a form of emotion regulation (John & Gross, 2004).

Boden et al.’s (2013) study among military veterans being treated for PTSD showed use of cognitive reappraisal to be associated with lower symptom severity for PTSD. Similar conclusions have been drawn from an earlier study with trainee fire fighters (Bryant & Guthrie, 2005) that found that a tendency to appraise situations negatively is a risk factor for developing PTSD. Tugade and Fredrickson (2004) found that resilient individuals use positive emotions to find positive meaning in stressful situations, and that an important factor that contributes to psychological resilience is appraisal. Achieving healthy reappraisals can be aided through trainings in, for example, benefit finding (Sears et al., 2003), positive meaning making (Tugade & Fredrickson, 2004), and perspective broadening (Schartau et al., 2009). This paper focuses on exploring the role technology can play in a reappraisal training following films about distressing topics.

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