Video testimony of long-term hospitalized psychiatrically ill holocaust survivors

Rael D. Strous*, Mordechai Weiss, Irit Felsen, Boris Finkel, Yuval Melamed, Avraham Bleich, Moshe Kotler, Dori Laub

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Many Holocaust survivors who have both psychotic disorders and residual symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) remain chronically hospitalized in psychiatric institutions. This study investigated the clinical benefits of a therapeutic process facilitating a detailed videotaped account of traumatic experience (testimony method) in elderly long-term hospitalized Holocaust survivors. Method: Twenty-four schizophrenia patients (mean age=72.2 years) who were chronically hospitalized in Israeli state psychiatric hospitals underwent assessment by blind rating with a battery of psychiatric rating scales before and 4 months after extensive videotaped interview. The rating scales included the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale; Clinical Global Impression (CGI); Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE); Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale, Form 2; and Structured Interview for Disorders of Extreme Stress. Full pre- and postinterview data were available for 21 patients. Results: Thirty-eight percent of the patients met the criteria for PTSD at the first interview, compared with only 19% at the second interview. The patients had significant reductions in functional impairment and in the severity and intensity of all posttraumatic symptom clusters (intrusion, avoidance, hyperarousal); the avoidance cluster showed the most reduction. Eleven subjects had an improvement of 30% or more in total posttraumatic severity score. No differences in Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, MMSE, Structured Interview for Disorders of Extreme Stress, and CGI total scores were noted postinterview or between the two preinterview evaluation batteries in the comparison group. Female patients had a higher prevalence of PTSD symptoms. Total Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale, Form 2, scores and total Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale scores were inversely correlated both at baseline and at follow-up. Conclusions: Study observations suggest clinical benefits of the testimony method in the alleviation of many posttraumatic symptoms, but not psychosis, in a cohort of psychiatrically ill Holocaust survivors, despite an interval of as many as 60 years since the traumatic events. The findings have implications for care and rehabilitation of patients many years after acute traumatic events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2287-2294
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2005


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