Types of Treatment for PTSD

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Counseling and therapy is an integral part of the overall treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There are a number of different types of therapy used, many counselors and therapists will use a combination of different therapies to create the most effective treatment plan.

    Cognitive Therapy

    Cognitive therapy helps you to understand what you feel and to change your thought processes. A therapist will help you see which thoughts may be causing you stress and interfering with your life. The goal of cognitive therapy is to gradually replace those thoughts with less anxiety-producing thoughts to reduce fears you may be feeling.

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    This type of therapy also works to create an understanding that the event or situation was not your fault. It helps to cope with feelings of guilt and anger. Many people blame themselves after a traumatic event. Cognitive therapy helps you to look at the event in a different way and understand the event was not your fault.

    Exposure Therapy

    The goal of exposure therapy is to reduce the amount of fear you feel about your memories. Situations, events, people or thoughts can bring up memories of previous traumatic events, causing fear not only of the memory but avoidance of situations, people or events that may trigger a memory.

    In exposure therapy, you talk about past events, particularly the traumatic event. By repeatedly talking about the event, you may be able to reduce the amount of fear you have. Early in this type of therapy people may feel overwhelmed and resist talking about the event. However, as you continue to discuss it and learn you do not need to be afraid of your memories, you will become more comfortable.

    Therapists work with patients to talk about memories in steps, "desensitizing" you to stress producing memories. A therapist may encourage you to talk about less stressful memories in the beginning and as you become more comfortable, discuss more painful memories.

    Therapists may also work with you on relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, that you can use when talking about stressful memories.

    Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

    This type of therapy is a relatively new treatment for PTSD. This therapy, like cognitive or exposure therapy, works to change how you react to memories of a stressful or traumatic event. During EMDR, you will learn to focus on external stimulus, such as eye movements, tapping of fingers or sounds when recalling memories. Some studies have shown symptoms of PTSD decrease when using this technique.


    Group therapy


    Group therapy is a form of talk therapy. People who have had similar experiences join together to discuss the trauma in an effort to make all participants better cope with symptoms of PTSD and stressful memories. Sharing your story, within a group of peers, can help you to feel more comfortable disscussing the event.


    Group therapy also provides a safe and secure environments. Because the other participants have all gone through similar situations, people feel accepted and less apt to be judged and may feel more comfortable opening up and sharing their feelings.


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    Group therapy can help you create new relationships. It helps many deal with feelings of guilt, shame, anger, fear or rage. Group therapy can help to build confidence and help you to focus on your current life situation and help you to move forward.



    Family therapy

    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder doesn't just impact your life. Your spouse, parents, siblings and children may all feel the stress of PTSD. They may not understand why you become angry quickly or why you sometimes seem depressed. Sometimes, family members feel guilty that they cannot help you. Sometimes, they may feel angry about your condition, or not understand why you can't help how you feel.

    Family therapy is a type of counseling that includes everyone in your family. The therapist often works to rebuild relationships between family members and can work with your family to improve communication skills. The therapist can also help to educate family members about PTSD, how it impacts your life and how it is treated.


    During family counseling, you will learn how your symptoms impact your family members as well. In order for family therapy to be effective, everyone needs to be willing to share their feelings about the traumatic event as well as about how PTSD makes them feel. This is important in making sure the family is working together to create a supportive environment for all the family members as well as helping your family members be better able to help you.

    Many people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will combine one or more of the above therapies. For example, you may receive cognitive and exposure therapy by yourself as well as having family counseling together with family members.

    For more information:

    What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

    What Does PTSD Mean to You?

    PTSD in the Military

Published On: September 27, 2009