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Rianne de Kleine using Veni grant to study post-traumatic stress

Can we improve the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? Our young and promising psychologist Rianne de Kleine receives a Veni grant to carry out her research on the treatment of post-traumatic stress.

Rianne de Kleine

Do patients benefit when we apply new insights from the lab to the treatment of PTSD? These are the questions Rianne de Kleine is aiming to answer.

Exposure to memories

PTSD is a common but serious psychiatric disorder that can develop after someone has a traumatic experience. People suffering with PTSD tend to avoid thoughts of the trauma, as well as places or situations that remind them of that experience. During the psychological treatment of PTSD, patients do exactly what they fear doi g: they expose themselves to memories of the trauma. The effectiveness of this exposure therapy has been proven, and this method is indicated as a go-to treatment in the guidelines for treating PTSD.

Laboratory model

Unfortunately, the results of this treatment are not as good as they could be: roughly 50% of patients see either only a little improvement or none at all. As De Kleine explains, ‘A lot of laboratory research has been done on mechanisms of exposure. This lab model has produced some promising strategies to reinforce the mechanism of exposure and thereby improve the effects. These strategies represent changes to the way we offer exposure sessions to our patients.’

Old and new strategy

Now these strategies need to be tested to see if they also work in clinical practice. The goal of this Veni grant project is to test three different strategies during a short intervention. ‘By comparing “old-style” exposure to the “new style”, we can see if the application of the new strategies actually does yield better results,’ De Kleine explains.

Clinical research is always a team effort

‘This kind of research generally takes a long time and demands a big effort from a lot of people,’ says De Kleine. ‘It’s good to work in a department where this kind of research is valued and supported.’ The Clinical Psychology department recently completed a large-scale clinical study on exposure treatment for PTSD (IMPACT trial – website in Dutch), in cooperation with PsyQ Psychotrauma and Radboud University). 

The experiences with exposure during that study contributed to the development of ideas for this new Veni project. ‘Ultimately, I hope my research will help develop more effective treatments for people suffering with PTSD.’

Veni grants 2019 - 14 % succes rate

NWO talent programme Veni

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