Traumatic events are unpredictable and devastating. They can happen any time and anywhere, leaving the people who experience them with significant struggles as they try to process and recover from the memories of the event.
Some people are gradually able to come to terms with what happened, but others are not. People whose symptoms do not go away may be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Their symptoms may become so pervasive that they interfere with their ability to function in their day-to-day life.
Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change you do choose. – Michelle Rosenthal
If you have been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the good news is that it can be treated successfully. There are several effective forms of therapy that can help you regain control of your life and get it back on track.
Evidence-based Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder treatment interventions.
Evidence-based trauma-focused psychotherapies are considered to be the most effective PTSD treatment, and the first-line choice for people suffering from PTSD.
Although they may use different techniques or a combination of them to help you process your memories of the trauma, the common goal is to diminish your anxiety, reduce avoidant behavior, and equip you with effective coping skills to manage your symptoms, handle stressful situations, and deal with any triggers that arise.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of talk therapy that focuses on the relationship between thoughts and behaviors. Its premise is that identifying and correcting the distorted thoughts that are at the root of your symptoms can lead to healthier ways of acting and an improved ability to control your emotions.
Most PTSD treatment interventions are a form of cognitive behavioral therapy and fall under its umbrella.
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT).
Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that focuses specifically on the impact of traumatic events and the negative thoughts and feelings associated with them. It uses a combination of behavioral techniques such as exposure to triggers, and cognitive ones such as the restructuring of distorted thoughts about the trauma.
The therapist may, for example, have you describe your memories of the traumatic event in as much detail as you can remember, while helping you cope with any distress the emotional content may create by showing you how to identify thinking errors and distorted beliefs that are keeping you stuck in your fear and replace them with more rational, balanced ones.
Cognitive therapy focuses on modifying inaccurate memories and distorted beliefs about the trauma by teaching you how to identify and challenge automatic negative thoughts and replace them with alternate more logical and balanced ones.
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT).
Cognitive processing therapy is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy that is focused on teaching you how to recognize, challenge, and modify distorted or inaccurate thoughts related to the trauma, as well as identify what is causing the traumatic memories to resurface.
CPT includes elements of both cognitive and prolonged exposure therapies, and its premise is that as you learn how to cope with the triggers they will become less intense and frequent and no longer have a debilitating effect on your life.
One technique used in cognitive processing therapy is to have you write down an account of the traumatic event in as much detail as possible and read it out loud. As you do this, the therapist will help you process and understand the effect the trauma has had on your thoughts and feelings, and how it is negatively impacting your life.
He or she will teach you how to address distorted beliefs by evaluating whether or not they are supported by facts and replacing them with a new, more realistic, and balanced perspective that changes the way you think about the trauma and reduces unrealistic fears and dysfunctional behaviors.
Prolonged Exposure therapy (PE).
The goal of prolonged exposure therapy is to help desensitize you to the thoughts and feelings triggered by memories of the traumatic event and increase your control over them so you no longer find them upsetting and are able to reengage with the people, places, and things you have been avoiding.
This is done through repeated exposure to situations you have been avoiding in a safe, controlled way to show you that they are not dangerous and do not need to be avoided.
At the beginning of the treatment, your therapist will prepare you for the exposure process by teaching you deep breathing and relaxation techniques you can use to help calm any fear or anxiety that arises when you think about the trauma.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR).
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy was specifically developed to treat trauma. It combines exposure therapy with guided eye movements that create a similar effect to the way your brain processes memories while you sleep.
Though it does not fall under the umbrella of cognitive behavior therapy, EMDR is also a highly successful evidence-based treatment modality. Its goal is to desensitize you to frightening memories by reducing the intensity of your emotional and physiological reactions to them.
Instead of talking about your traumatic experience, the therapist will have you concentrate on a detailed memory of it while simultaneously following a moving light with your eyes or listening to a sound. This reduces the vividness and emotion associated with the memory and enables your brain to reprocess it in a less distressing way.
Cognitive restructuring is not a treatment modality per se, but rather a core component of many psychotherapies, including cognitive behavior therapy. Its goal is to help you get a more objective, realistic perspective of what happened by using logic and facts to reframe inaccurate or distorted beliefs.
Stress Inoculation Training (SIT).
The goal of stress inoculation training is to help you become less sensitive to triggers and their negative associations by learning coping skills for managing anxiety such as deep breathing, and grounding and relaxation techniques. It can also include role play and guided positive self-talk.
Additional things you can do to help yourself.
- Learn the facts about PTSD so you can understand what you are feeling and why.
- Know your triggers so you can be prepared and have a plan for managing your symptoms.
- Remind yourself that recovery takes time, and be patient with yourself.
- Take care of your body by eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet; staying hydrated; doing some form of regular exercise; and getting enough rest.
- Use grounding techniques such as focusing on your five senses to bring you back to the present when you feel symptoms coming on.
- Use calming techniques such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation to help manage fear and anxiety.
- Don’t try to numb your feelings by self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.
- Spend time with caring, supportive people and build a support network of at least one or two trusted friends or loved ones you feel safe opening up to.
- Join a support group.
Christian counseling for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Christian counseling uses a combination of biblically based, Christ-centered principles; secular clinical interventions; and prayer; to minister to the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. If you are struggling with PTSD and would like to know how we can help you manage the challenges you are facing, please give us a call today.
You do not have to walk this path alone. We would be happy to answer your questions and/or set up an appointment for you to meet with one of the faith-based counselors in our online directory.
APA Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. “PTSD Treatments.” American Psychological Association (APA). Updated June 2020. apa.org/ptsd-guideline/treatments.
WebMD Editorial Contributors. “What Are The Treatments for PTSD?” WebMD. Medically reviewed on January 21, 2022. webmd.com/mental-health/what-are-treatments-for-posttraumatic-stress-disorder.
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