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PTSD Linen Cupboard Metaphor

Treatment for trauma often involves exposure to traumatic thoughts and memories, and many clients are understandably reluctant to attempt this. The PTSD Linen Cupboard Metaphor is a great way of explaining the purpose and process of trauma memory treatment.

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Professional version

A PDF of the resource, theoretical background, suggested therapist questions and prompts.

Client version

A PDF of the resource plus client-friendly instructions where appropriate.

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Introduction & Theoretical Background

The PTSD Linen Cupboard Metaphor is an illustrated metaphor to explain the treatment rationale to patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Cupboard metaphors tend to be a popular image amongst therapists, with components of carefully unpacking a problem and then re-packing the ingredients in a manner that will be less problematic in future. In PTSD this metaphor is taken further, with intrusive memories described as items which fall out (or force their way out) of the cupboard. These memories need to be examined thoroughly before being carefully folded and placed back in the cupboard.

Therapist Guidance

This is a Psychology Tools information handout. Suggested uses include:
  • Client handout - use as a psychoeducation resource
  • Discussion point - use to provoke a discussion and explore client beliefs
  • Therapist learning tool - improve your familiarity with a psychological construct
  • Teaching resource - use as a learning tool during training