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Trauma and memory: What every clinician should know
Trauma and memory: What every clinician should know
Trauma and memory: What every clinician should know

Trauma and memory: What every clinician should know

Prof. Chris Brewin

Professionals: $60.00 CAD +tax
Students: $48.00 CAD +tax


On September 28th 2023, Dr. Chris Brewin delivered a 90-minute webinar on PTSD, atypical presentations, and the impact of trauma on memory. This on-demand webinar is a recording of that presentation.

Workshop Outline

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects a minority of people exposed to trauma and can be, unless treated, a debilitating and chronic condition. It has been described as disorder of memory, and is associated with unusual and distressing symptoms such as flashbacks. It is not well recognized in general practice however, and often remains untreated for long periods. This is sometimes because the person has developed PTSD to an event that is not obviously traumatic, and it is important to understand what conditions and vulnerabilities make PTSD more likely.
The condition is associated with two alterations to normal memory that may appear contradictory: increased intrusion of vivid, distressing images of the traumatic event together with difficulty in producing a coherent verbal narrative of the event. The former often leads to avoidance and clinicians need to appreciate the role of triggers. Contrary to popular belief, traumatic events can sometimes be completely forgotten and the recovery of unexpected memories sometimes requires careful handling.


The way PTSD is diagnosed has recently changed with the introduction of the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The diagnosis of PTSD has been greatly simplified and a distinction has been introduced between PTSD and Complex PTSD. Dr. Brewin will outline these changes and the new definition of flashbacks and intrusive memories. He will also present recent research on the kind of events that are associated with ICD-11 PTSD, which are broader than the traditional ones and include some types of experience (harassment, abuse, frightening hallucinations) not traditionally considered traumatic.
Following this, key memory concepts such as intrusive memories, flashbacks, and hotspots will be distinguished, along with a discussion of how much they can be expected to reflect external reality. Research indicates that the origin of these intrusions is related to specific responses occurring during the traumatic event. This webinar will include descriptions of how these intrusions can be triggered by aspects of the clinical environment as well as by the words and actions of the clinician, with the danger of disengagement from treatment. Clinicians must ensure that they help patients to feel in control of their interactions as much as possible. Dr. Brewin will describe the impairments that are often found in traumatic memory, the evidence that traumatic events can be forgotten, and the reasons this may happen. A clinical strategy is described to deal with traumatic memories that are recovered from amnesia, involving the absence of any suggestion and neutrality about to what extent the memories correspond to reality.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Distinguish PTSD and Complex PTSD within ICD-11

  • Have greater awareness of the possibility of PTSD following events not traditionally regarded as traumatic

  • Recognize intrusive memories, flashbacks, and hotspots

  • Apply strategies for dealing with memories recovered from total amnesia

About the Presenter

Dr. Chris Brewin is Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology at University College London. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Academy for Medical Sciences, and in 2013 was awarded the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies Robert S. Laufer Memorial Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement. His research has investigated the impact of traumatic events on memory and identity, including phenomena such as flashbacks, delayed onsets, and amnesia, and he was a member of the British Psychological Society’s Working Party on Recovered Memories which reported in 1995. Dr. Brewin is particularly associated with the dual representation theory of posttraumatic stress disorder which has been updated to include a contemporary neuroscientific model of spatial memory and imagery. After the London bombings he was centrally involved in designing and implementing a unique outreach programme to ensure survivors had access to evidence-based treatment. He has contributed to recent international changes to the diagnosis of PTSD in DSM-5, and played a major role in the diagnostic formulation of disorders specifically associated with stress in ICD-11.

Training Modalities

This workshop will include didactic content and Q&A.

Who should attend

This webinar is suitable for any health professional who wishes to learn more about the impact of traumatic events on memory and the implications this has for service design, training, and clinical practice.

Continuing Education (CE) Credits

Bespoke Mental Health Canada is approved by the Canadian Psychological Association to offer continuing education for psychologists. Bespoke Mental Health Canada maintains responsibility for the program. 
After viewing this workshop, participants have the option to complete an evaluation form and a workshop knowledge quiz in order to be eligible to receive a certificate confirming the number of credits awarded. This certificate will be sent via email.
Participants who completed this workshop are eligible to receive 1.5 CE credits.


Professionals: $60 CAD +tax
Students*: $48 CAD +tax
* Proof of student status may be required in order to qualify for a student rate.

Key References

Brewin, C.R. (2014). Episodic memory, perceptual memory, and their interaction: Foundations
for a theory of posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychological Bulletin, 140, 69-97.

Brewin, C.R. (2015). Re-experiencing traumatic events in PTSD: New avenues in research on
intrusive memories and flashbacks. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 6: 27180. doi:

Brewin, C.R. (2020). Complex posttraumatic stress disorder: A new diagnosis in ICD-11. British
Journal of Psychiatry Advances, 26, 145-152.

Brewin, C.R. & Ehlers, A. (in press). Posttraumatic stress disorder. In M. Kahana & A. Wagner

(eds.), Handbook of human memory: Foundations and applications. Oxford: OUP.

Gold, S.N. & Brown, L.S. (1997). Therapeutic responses to delayed recall: Beyond recovered
memory. Psychotherapy, 34, 182-191.

Raja, S., Hasnain, M., Hoersch, M., Gove-Yin, S. & Rajagopalan, C. (2015). Trauma informed care in medicine: Current knowledge and future research directions. Family & Community Health, 38, 216–226.

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