Relief from PTSD – Cognitive Processing Therapy

Do you ever wonder why you are having intrusive thoughts about a horrific event you have witnessed or been involved in? Do you startle easily when someone comes up behind you, not sleeping well, having nightmares and/or flashbacks about an event in your life? Maybe you are having strong physical reactions; irritability or outbursts of anger, feeling restless or engaging in reckless behavior. Or you could be having changes in mood; experiencing anger, guilt, shame, fear and sadness. If so, you might be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A visit to your Doctor or psychiatrist can assist in making this diagnosis.

Many people believe that PTSD is a result of trauma suffered in combat, but you can actually have PTSD from many different kinds of trauma. The tornado you went through in college, the car accident where your friend was injured, being involved in or witnessing gang violence, violence from being incarcerated and suffering injury or trauma that is sexual in nature. It can also be from childhood trauma; witnessing domestic violence, the death of a family member, or physical violence suffered by an adult.

There are several treatment options for PTSD. One option is Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). It was developed in the late 1980’s and is endorsed by the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense as a “first line” treatment. Cognitive Processing Therapy is a 12 session protocol designed to help one recover from a traumatic event. The sessions include: introduction and education, meaning of the event, identification of thoughts and feelings, remembering the traumatic event, second trauma account, challenging questions, patterns of problematic thinking, safety issues, trust issues, power/control issues, esteem issues and intimacy issues and meaning of the event. Each session builds on the one before.

The treatment also includes homework, which permits the client to build tools to use for any future difficulty. Another benefit of this protocol is that the homework assignments apply to any situation where you may not be thinking clearly due to faulty beliefs, not just traumatic events. Many people continue to use their worksheets long after therapy ends because the tools are so universal in application. CPT also includes a one month follow-up which compares the client’s response to their pre-counseling beliefs – to determine that healing is still taking place.

Many people suffer from several different kinds of trauma. In those cases, CPT usually addresses the first trauma, which is typically the most traumatic. After the 12 week protocol is completed, the client can then begin working on another trauma. This protocol is designed to be individualized; the modules at the end of the sessions are emphasized as they relate to the client’s personal trauma. The symptoms of PTSD feel overwhelming, but when it is broken down into weekly sessions with worksheets designed to build on each other, it becomes doable. Clients DO recover!

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