What is Prolonged Exposure Therapy for PTSD?
Many people who live with PTSD find that prolonged exposure therapy is a great tool to help with recovery. Prolonged exposure therapy helps individuals with PTSD learn that the trauma-related symptoms they feel, including feelings, are not danger signals for current events. By understanding this, anxiety is lessened, and the person can stop avoiding things that remind them of their trauma.
Many people who have been in the military, suffered through serious illnesses such as COVID-19 or lived through abuse or neglect suffer from PTSD.
Why Exposure Therapy?
Many people with PTSD do something that seems logical and reasonable; they avoid situations, places, and things that remind them of the trauma they endured. This may mean that they get overwhelmed in crowds or open spaces. Or, they may avoid members of their family even after an abusive family member is long gone. The feelings of fear and panic can be palpable for somebody with PTSD.
People with PTSD often experience a “fight or flight” reaction to situations that remind them of the trauma they experienced. As a result, some people with PTSD choose to avoid these situations as much as possible, only to discover it increases their anxiety when they’re confronted with it.
Prolonged exposure therapy can help decrease these fears and lessen the anxiety a client feels in these situations.
How Exposure Therapy Works
With a therapist in a safe environment, a therapist helps their clients identify ways that their thoughts and beliefs continue to keep their trauma alive. These thoughts and feelings – about the world, the trauma, and themselves – help the client and their therapist identify barriers to recovery.
Once trust has been established, and these patterns are identified, the therapist and client will work together. People with PTSD learn how to challenge and modify the thought processes during the trauma and take small steps to confront and challenge them.
The client will begin being exposed to situations that trigger a PTSD reaction. They learn to tolerate them and change their thoughts and responses to the situation through exposure. Exposure therapy can help people begin to rebuild their trust, self-esteem, and feelings about themselves and the world, one step at a time.
Prolonged exposure to situations that cause PTSD symptoms can help a person cope with future anxiety-producing situations.
If you or somebody you love struggles with PTSD and substance use disorder, we’re here to help. You deserve a chance to reclaim your life and begin to recover. So give us a call to learn more about our programs and how we can help.