Treating PTSD: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as the Go-to Option

Any person who experiences a traumatic event or witnesses one may struggle with posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD. A serious accident or physical abuse can lead to this condition. However, most people associate it with service members returning home from a war zone.

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Many veterans have been exposed to trauma during their time in the military. Nine percent of veterans making use of VA services have been diagnosed with this condition, and there are many others who have yet to receive a diagnosis. Sadly, 25 percent of men and 20 percent of women who served in Afghanistan or Iraq struggle with PTSD today. Fortunately, ptsd treatment for veterans is available. What does this treatment consist of?

Psychotherapy for PTSD

Most people with PTSD find they benefit greatly from cognitive-behavioral therapy. The patient meets with the therapist weekly and undergoes either Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) or Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy. These sessions typically continue for up to four months.

Cognitive Processing Therapy

Cognitive processing therapy helps men and women learn how to identify, challenge, and modify beliefs they have regarding the trauma, focusing on those beliefs that are unhelpful. Before the patient processes the trauma, the therapist educates them on their condition. Doing so helps the patient better understand how thoughts and emotions are linked. They can then pick up on thoughts that are causing their symptoms to linger.

When the patient has a better understanding of this link, the therapy sessions turn to processing the trauma. They write out a detailed description of the worst trauma they experienced and share it with the therapist to learn how to acknowledge their thoughts and feelings regarding the trauma. Once the patient learns this technique, they can apply it to other traumatic events they have experienced.

CPT works in individual and group sessions. All patients are given assignments to do at home as well. However, some therapists choose to eliminate the written aspect and focus more on cognitive techniques.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Prolonged exposure therapy is another option for those suffering from PTSD. With the help of this therapy, a person learns to address the trauma they experienced. Many people do everything possible to avoid the memories and feelings associated with this trauma, which is what holds them back from getting better.

As with CPT, the process begins with the therapist educating the patient on the process. They then gather more information about any traumatic experiences in the patient's life. The therapist walks the patient through a breathing technique they can use if they begin to feel anxious. Next, the therapist and patient make a list of all the things the patient has avoided since the trauma.

While seeing the therapist, the patient will directly face each fear until they feel comfortable. They won't need to avoid them anymore. Once this has been done, the details of the trauma will be revealed using imaginal exposure. The patient recalls the trauma in vivid detail to help work through any anger, fear, and sadness associated with it. This is all done one-on-one. There are no group sessions with prolonged exposure therapy, and the patient will have homework between sessions.

A person can overcome their PTSD with the right help. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to work better than other techniques. Work with a therapist trained in the use of these techniques to see the best outcomes. Nobody should have to live with PTSD today. With this therapy, they won't.

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