Defining trauma : exploring frameworks, theories, and measurement with clinical psychologists : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand

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Traumatic experiences are a devastating part of the human experience, with a significant percentage of the population experiencing at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. The way in which we are affected by these experiences dramatically differs from person to person, yet we are all assessed by the same standards and criteria. The present study aims to investigate the post-trauma presentations seen by psychologists in those seeking trauma treatment, how patients are affected by their experiences and whether this is reflected in quantitative measures designed to evaluate post-traumatic pathology. Most of the literature argues that psychometrics are accurate and effective due to their ability to identify the criteria assigned to a post-traumatic diagnosis. This study suggests that the criteria itself only fits a marginal proportion of those who have experienced trauma; therefore, those measures cannot be universally applicable. This is not an issue that has been examined in literature to date. Thematic data from interviews with practicing psychologists has been analysed to examine how trauma presents in their clients, their preferred methods of assessment and treatment, as well as how they determine progress. Contrary to what is often assumed, trauma presents in an unquantifiable manner, with significant variations between individuals. Post-traumatic pathology is influenced by every factor surrounding the event and everything that follows. While quantitative measures provide objectivity and ease of use, trauma is a deeply subjective experience. As such, a qualitative approach to diagnostics and treatment should be the standard in trauma care to give patients the best chance of recovery. This change would have far-reaching implications for those accessing and providing services, especially supplying agencies such as ACC that rely on objective measures to assess need.