Frank Ochberg, M.D. on PTT: The Counting Method

Traumatic memories invade the consciousness of those who suffer PTSD, presenting a profound challenge for the survivor and for the posttraumatic therapist. In this 25 minute DVD, Dr. Frank Ochberg explains and models his Counting Method for mastering flashbacks and intrusive recollections. This method is a powerful yet simple tool in the armamentarium of PTT – post-traumatic therapy. Recorded during an extraordinary training seminar for Michigan State University psychiatry residents, this video documents a specific technique and a collegial, collaborative relationship between psychotherapist and client, midway through a long-term, multifaceted out-patient treatment. Recommended for professional use only! 


Psychotherapy, Vol. 30/Winter 1993/Number 4

1.Frank Ochberg, M.D. on PTSD: $30.00
2.The Counting Method: $30.00.

In 1980 the American Psychiatric Association formally codified Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (third edition). In the subsequent revision in 1987 the diagnostic criteria were revise d in accordance with new advances in the scientific and clinical literature. In 1993 the International Handbook of Traumatic Stress Syndromes was published (Wilson & Raphael) which reflects the rapid proliferation of knowledge and world-wide cooperation in understanding traumatic events and their consequences to those suffering from PATS. As the field of traumatic stress studies has grown so has the need to develop effective therapeutic treatments and educational materials to aid mental health professionals. Two newly produced video tapes by Frank Ochberg were designed for just that purpose and are superb training materials for clinicians who seek to understand the nature of PTSD and post-traumatic therapy.

In the first video tape, PTSD, Ochberg covers a wide range of information about the stress response syndrome. He begins b discussing the diagnostic criteria of PTSD as a triad of interrelated symptoms: ( I ) re-experiencing the events: (2) avoidance and numbing. and (3) states of increased physiological activity. Each of the core symptom clusters is presented with clear examples of how they are manifest in behavior and why PTSD is different from other mental disorders such as schizophrenia bi-polar disorder or major depression. Next, the types of traumatic events that cause PTSD are discussed and illustrated with graphics that characterize the types of stressor events that impact on victims who develop PTSD. Importantly it is noted that anyone can develop PTSD at any point in the life-cycle since the disorder is in essence. the normal pattern of stress reaction to abnormally stressful life events. The last section of the videotape presents a demonstration of the principles and techniques of post-traumatic therapy. Especially valuable here are case illustrations in which actual patients talk about their traumas and the impact to their lives.

The second videotape is more highly focused on a technique for assisting patients in the recall and processing of traumatic memories. The technique is called the Counting Method and is part of post-traumatic therapy. This therapeutic technique is disarmingly simple in appearance but is, in fact, a highly structured and controlled behavioral method of managing distressing memories of trauma and victimization. To begin the therapist explains the four parts of the technique to the patient. First, there is a discussion of the method and timing of the recall of the traumatic memory that the patient selects to deal with. Second, the therapist explains that he will count to 100 and when he reaches between 40-70 the crest of the painful memory should be accomplished and that by 90 a more comfortable state should be forthcoming. Third, at the completion of the count, the patient and therapist discuss the emotional reactions and memories that took place. In the video a presentation in vivo with a client dramatically illustrates the entire process which ends with a period of closure and reflection.

In conclusion. both video tapes are excellent training tools for mental health professionals. The material is concisely presented with excellent case illustration. The impact of reviewing the material far exceeds reading similar accounts in textbooks and can be reviewed over and over again to gain new insights about PTSD.

Wilson;. J. P & Raphael. B (1993). The international handbook of traumatic stress syndromes. New York: Plenum.