Unfortunately, most people will experience a significant traumatic stressor in their lifetime. Traumatic stressors might include, but are not limited to, experiences such as car accidents, sexual, emotional, or physical abuse, childhood neglect or invalidation, facing the loss of a child due to cancer or other medical conditions, and witnessing the death or injury of others through combat or first responding. Most people experience symptoms immediately following these experiences, such as nightmares, intrusive and distressing images or memories, sleep difficulties, and negative thoughts about self or others. While some people recover naturally with time without formal intervention, some people find that they continue to have symptoms. Often these symptoms rise to the level of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but there are many other conditions that can arise following traumatic experiences. Symptoms of PTSD include re-experiencing (e.g., nightmares, intrusive memories), avoidance of trauma-related reminders and/or conversations, negative changes in thought patterns and mood (e.g., detachment or disconnection, self-blame, difficulties trusting others), and changes in reactivity (e.g., irritability, impaired sleep and concentration).
CPT is considered an evidence-based therapy for PTSD. Nearly three decades of well-controlled research has demonstrated that CPT significantly reduces symptoms of PTSD and other comorbid symptoms. Traumatic experiences, as well as the reactions we’ve received from others about our experiences, can lead us to develop negative thoughts that significantly interfere with our lives. Thoughts like, “I could’ve prevented it – it’s completely my fault;” “The world is a dangerous place,” “No one can be trusted,” “I can’t listen to my intuition,” are all common. Even though these thoughts make sense given your experiences, there may be ways in which you can shift these thoughts that cause less distress or keep you less “stuck.” CPT helps you identify beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world that may have arisen from, or been strengthened by trauma, and sort through whether these beliefs can be changed. This process can not only change how you feel and act, but also help you make sense of the trauma and help us decrease avoidance of trauma-related thoughts, feelings, or reminders that may be negatively affecting your life.
Treatment involves establishing treatment goals, learning about trauma-related symptoms and their impact on your life, understanding the rationale for different aspects of the treatment, becoming more aware of your thoughts and feelings, learning skills to help you challenge, question, or balance your thoughts, and identifying how trauma has affected your beliefs about safety, trust, control, self-esteem, and relationships. There are two versions of CPT; one involves a written account of the trauma, and the other does not. Research has shown that both versions are effective. CPT generally consists of 12 50-minute sessions, though can be extended as needed. Partners or loved ones may be integrated into treatment for support as needed. More information on CPT, including a whiteboard video and how to help loved ones participating in this treatment, can be found here.
While CPT is extremely effective for trauma-related symptoms, it is not a good fit for everyone. Fortunately, there are a number of other treatments that are effective for trauma-related issues, depending on your preferences and stage of recovery – Prolonged Exposure Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Skills Training in Affective and Interpersonal Regulation, Interpersonal Psychotherapy, Cognitive-Behavioral Conjoint Therapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and Mindfulness-Based Therapy.
If you aren’t sure which of these treatments might be the best fit for you, please feel free to contact us to talk more. We’re happy to help and want to ensure you’re getting the treatment that most suits your needs.