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Updated: April 18, 2022

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for People With PTSD

If you or somebody you love struggles with symptoms of PTSD, you may have heard about Cognitive Processing Therapy, also called CPT. This type of therapy was explicitly created to help people with PTSD cope with past trauma. PTSD is a mental health disorder that can be complex to treat. While many people seek out Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), CPT is beneficial for people with trauma in their past. It can help people who live with PTSD challenge and modify their thoughts and feelings related to the trauma, lending a new perspective.

Understanding PTSD

All people carry trauma in one form or another, but PTSD is a mental health disorder that takes place at least six weeks after the trauma. People with PTSD have intrusive memories, nightmares, anxiety, and other symptoms related to their trauma. The trauma can come from any source. For example, you may have experienced abuse, neglect, abandonment, a violent crime, or combat.

People with PTSD have in common their emotions and the symptoms they experience. People with PTSD experience panic, anxiety, depression, anger, and isolation. They may have trouble functioning day-to-day or feel like they are reliving their trauma repeatedly.

How CPT Helps People With PTSD

CPT therapy helps individuals confront their trauma and the thoughts they associate with the traumatic event. CPT follows a strict schedule that usually lasts 12 weeks. Through those weeks, a therapist helps clients understand how the trauma affects them today. Breaking the thought patterns can help people break their defeatist behavior patterns.

A person with PTSD may have formed different reactions to the trauma. For example, children may believe that they are unworthy of kindness or love because of how their parents treated them as a child. Unfortunately, this same belief may carry on to adulthood, where instead of forming relationships with a safe partner, an abuse victim may end up in abusive romantic relationships.

Using CPT, a therapist will help a client recognize unhealthy or maladaptive thoughts formed in reaction to trauma. These thoughts and feelings can often lead to self-destructive behavior, increased anxiety, or angry outbursts. Learning to react to these thoughts will come with therapy.

CPT helps a person understand their thoughts and where they come from. Over time and throughout recovery, people with PTSD can change these thoughts and replace them with healthier coping strategies and behaviors.

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