These treatment procedures are specifically designed to provide in-person or online support to clients who present Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) intense psychological distress and/or physiological/somatic reactivity caused by the disorder’s intrusion symptoms associated with the traumatic event(s) or adverse experience(s) memories.
For example, recurrent memories of the adverse experience(s) that includes one or more of the following components:
- Sensory (e.g., images, smells, sounds, touch or be touched, taste).
- Emotional (physical sensations associated with affective states).
- Physiological (visceral sensations: vomit sensation, sense of heat for a burn victim, shortness of breath for a near-drowning experience survivor).
The ASSYST© procedures are Low-Intensity-Interventions (LII) that give us the possibility of direct, non-intrusive, physiological engagement with the client’s distressing/ pathogenic memories and their original components causing the nervous system hyperactivation (e.g., sensory, emotional, and physiological encoded information).
Low-Intensity- Interventions (LII) are treatments with low usage of a specialized therapist’s time or brief versions of evidence-based approaches (max 6 sessions). LII are less resource-intensive, less expensive, less complex, shorter, effective, efficient, and more accessible than high-intensity treatments (face-to-face psychotherapy provided by a mental health specialist over extended periods of time).
The ASSYST© procedures can be administered within the first hours (Critical Care), days (Rapid Response) or first three months (Early Intervention), after an adverse experience, or as an early intervention to approach ongoing traumatic stress situations, when the person shows severe symptoms of psychological distress, physiological reactivity, and/or deterioration in current functioning, using a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant video program.
During the standard EMDR protocol preparation phase, the ASSYST Individual could increase the prevention of dissociative reactions (e.g., numb/disconnected, shutdown, collapse, fainting) while reprocessing pathogenic memories by reducing the nervous system sympathetic branch hyperactivation, produced by a specific memory component (e.g., freeze response when remembering the worst image, the screams of the people, or the smell of the aggressor), keeping the patients inside their window of tolerance.
The objective of these procedures is focused on the client’s nervous system sympathetic branch hyperactivation regulation through the reduction or removal of the activation produced by the sensory, emotional, or physiological components of the distressing/ pathogenic memories of the adverse experience(s) to achieve optimal levels of nervous system activation; thus, facilitating the AIP system the subsequent adaptive processing of the information
The ASSYST© procedures fill the gap between Psychological First Aid (PFA) and High-Intensity Intervention psychotherapy (e.g., EMDR) after a critical incident or adverse experience when the person shows severe symptoms of psychological distress, physiological reactivity, and/or deterioration in current functioning.
These procedures must be administered within a Stepped Care Context to help the person achieve a state of adaptive functioning or, via screening, to facilitate access to High-Intensity Intervention psychotherapy when necessary.
The ASSYST procedures have been successfully used:
- Three days after the September 19, 2017 earthquake in Mexico;
- 13 days after the August 3, 2019, mass shooting in El Paso, Texas;
- Shortly after the September 1st, 2019 hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas;
- Immediately after the October 2019 riots in Chile to provide support to hospitalized civilians that were injured during the protests;
- Immediately after the November, 2019 riots and wave of terror in Bolivia to provide support to civilians that were injured during the protests;
- With immigrants in the United States three days after they escaped from 21 days of organized crime captivity;
- With first responders (firefighters and medical personnel) and civilians who survived the January 23, 2019 gas explosion in Villa El Salvador, Peru; and
- One day after the February 21, 2020 landslide in Cochabamba, Bolivia that affected 188 families.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic.
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