CBT Treatment for PTSD

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is to gold standard treatment for PTSD, with a wealth of research supporting it as the most effective treatment for the disorder. Most individuals with PTSD no longer meet the criteria for the disorder after as few as 12 sessions of trauma-focused CBT. The American Psychological Association also recently determined that licensed psychologists (as opposed to social workers and marriage and family therapists) are the most expert providers of care for PTSD. Several CBT treatments for PTSD exist:

Prolonged Exposure: Prolonged exposure is a treatment that helps people no longer experience the anxiety and distress associated with the trauma, by helping people repeatedly expose themselves to memories of the trauma. This treatment has been the subject of numerous scientific studies, and has been found to significantly reduce the re-experiencing symptoms, anxiety arousal, and avoidance of feared stimuli that go along with PTSD. Prolonged exposure makes use of homework assignments designed to help people habituate, to thoughts of the trauma until people no longer become upset by them. Often this happens by the third exposure session, which represents a huge advancement in psychotherapy techniques.

Cognitive Processing Therapy: This therapy identifies thoughts about the trauma as the primary target of treatment. People who develop PTSD often go on to develop maladaptive assumptions that maintain their trauma response. Cognitive processing therapy identifies these maladaptive patterns in thinking, and helps people restructure them, allowing them to make meaning out of the trauma that results in less anxiety and greater confidence. Also considered a gold standard treatment for PTSD, the research in support of CPT suggests it is as effective as prolonged exposure in reducing PTSD symptoms.

Seeking Safety: Many people experience intense emotional dysregulation following a trauma. This means their emotions are easily triggered, are of overwhelming intensity, and are slow in returning to normal. Seeking safety teaches people ways of coping with these intense emotions through methods such as mindfulness training and emotion regulation skills. Many people find Seeking Safety to be a good way of building coping skills prior to engaging in a more trauma-focused therapy such as prolonged exposure or cognitive processing therapy.

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is a treatment that was popular a couple of decades ago, but has fallen out of favor with evidence-based therapists in the past ten years. It is a treatment very similar to prolonged exposure, with the unusual addition of eye movement exercises paired with the exposure. All of the recent research on EMDR has shown that the eye movement adds nothing to the treatment, and thus clinicians more connected to up-to-date psychology practices have discontinued using it in favor of the more research-based prolonged exposure. It is not harmful, and many people in fact have benefitted from it. However, it is unclear why people persist in providing this antiquated treatment given what we now know about the active ingredients in therapy, other than not being familiar with the research about what works in therapy. Needless to say, we do not provide this treatment at Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Los Angeles, and we do not recommend it.

At Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Los Angeles, we are experts in the field of evidence-based treatment for PTSD. Call or email today to schedule an appointment.