Journal of Psychology in Africa

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Trauma, imagery and the therapeutic relationship: Langu's story

Belinda Karpelowsky, David Edwards


This paper, a phenomenological case study, describes the psychotherapy of Langu (pseudonym), a 21-year-old student, who presented with Acute Stress Disorder following a series of motor accidents that affected him and his family. Langu's most distressing experience was having to identify his brother's mutilated and severely burned body. Because of the intensity of the intrusive re-experiencing of traumatic imagery and the degree of dissociative numbing, Langu participated in four intensive guided imagery sessions, which involved reliving the incident, and imaginal dialogues with his dead brother. Session records and supervision notes from the therapy process that unfolded over 22 sessions served as the basis for a thematically selective case narrative. Additional material was obtained from several research interviews with Langu over the following months. The narrative highlights the impact of the imagery work as well as relational aspects of the therapy. The case narrative provides a source for examining many aspects of the psychological impact of trauma and the path to healing, as well as the dilemmas and challenges faced by therapists working with traumatised individuals.

Keywords: acute stress disorder, case narrative, case study, cognitive therapy, guided imagery, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychotherapy, therapeutic relationship

Journal of Psychology in Africa 2005, 15(2): 185–195
AJOL African Journals Online