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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
The main treatments for people with PTSD are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), medications, or both. Everyone is different, so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another. It is important for anyone with PTSD to be treated by a psychologist or psychiatrist who has significant experience with PTSD.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) treatment for PTSD usually lasts about 12 weeks, but can take more time depending on the unique treatment needs of the patient. Many patients report significant symptom reduction after the first few sessions of treatment. Follow this link to a chart comparing the effectiveness of CBT to other treatments for PTSD. CBT for PTSD can include:
Exposure therapy. This therapy helps people face and control their fear. It exposes them to the trauma they experienced in a safe way, using a variety of tools to reduce the distress the memory of the trauma elicits. Generally this involves recounting the memory of the trauma in vivid detail until the memory is no longer distressing. Exposure treatment uses mental imagery, writing about the trauma, or visits to the place where the event happened as a way of stopping avoidance behaviors, which serve to maintain the fear. The therapist uses these tools to help people with PTSD cope with their feelings.
Cognitive Restructuring. This therapy helps people make sense of the bad memories. Sometimes people remember the event differently than how it happened. They may feel guilt or shame about what is not their fault. The therapist helps people with PTSD look at what happened in a realistic way, constructing new meanings from the event to help them move on.
Stress Inoculation Training. This therapy is designed to reduce PTSD symptoms by teaching a person how to reduce anxiety in the face of the trigger. Like cognitive restructuring, this treatment helps people look at their memories in a healthy way, and to change their natural physical reactions to threatening thoughts and other stimuli.