Addressing Trauma Through Post-Traumatic Stress Therapy

Highly traumatic events can have a profound impact on a person’s thoughts and emotions. The results of that impact is often manifested in behavior. This is the underlying model for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Fortunately, the condition can be addressed with post-traumatic stress therapy.

Post-traumatic stress therapy seeks to help those who have experienced significant trauma come to grips with their experiences for the purposes of introducing new thought patterns and behaviors. The American Psychological Association (APA) “strongly recommends” four interventions to treat PTSD.

In addition, there are several other interventions the APA recommends conditionally. We will not get into them here. Instead, we will focus on only the initial four. You might experience one or all of these interventions during post-traumatic stress therapy.

The Interventions

The first intervention is something known as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The remaining three are more specific types of CBT. Let us look at each one in more detail:

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT is a discussion-based therapy that focuses on identifying the connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It targets current problems and symptoms while focusing on changing thought patterns. When thought patterns are modified, so are emotions and behaviors.

2. Cognitive Processing Therapy

Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a more specific type of CBT that seeks to help patients challenge and modify unhelpful thoughts related to their trauma. Such thoughts cannot be eliminated completely, but patients can learn to deal with them in a more healthy way.

3. Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive therapy is considered a derivative of CBT. It focuses on a patient’s pessimistic memories and thoughts regarding their trauma. Ultimately, the goal is to disrupt the person’s thoughts and behaviors so that they no longer interfere with daily life.

4. Prolonged Exposure

Prolonged exposure is a form of CBT that encourages trauma victims to gradually face their memories and feelings. Rather than avoiding the memories and emotional cues that lead to PTSD symptoms, prolonged exposure teaches the patient that those memories and cues are not inherently harmful and do not have to be avoided.

Post-traumatic stress therapy involving all four interventions takes time. As a general rule, we expect several months of therapy consisting of weekly sessions. Of course, every person experiencing PTSD is on a different journey. Some respond more quickly to intervention than others.

Some People Manage Trauma Better Than Others

At this point, you might be curious as to why post-traumatic stress therapy requires so many different interventions. It goes back to the fact that patients experience trauma in different ways. This is easily observed in the reality that some people manage trauma better than others.

It is not unheard of for multiple people to experience the exact same trauma through the exact same event. Some of them go on to develop PTSD while others don’t. Admittedly, we do not yet understand the mechanism behind this. But we do know that people with solid support systems and healthy ways of dealing with the aftermath of trauma are less likely to develop PTSD.

We apply this general thinking to post-traumatic stress therapy. In a therapy setting, a therapist helps the patient process the emotional aftermath of their trauma in healthy ways. What some manage to do in a more organic way, without therapy, we facilitate through post-traumatic stress therapy.

Post-traumatic stress therapy can help patients overcome all sorts of trauma. It is not limited to military-related trauma only. If you have experienced a highly traumatic event and feel as though you are having trouble processing it, we invite you to reach out to Aspire Psychological for help.

Dr. Aryeh Berlin is a New Jersey licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Aspire Psychological Group. Dr. Berlin has vast clinical training experiences including a residential adolescent addiction treatment center in Israel, community mental health centers, and youth detention centers. Dr. Berlin has lectured on parenting children with emotional and behavioral difficulties, child development, helping children with school-related challenges and trauma. Audiences included attorneys, mental health professionals, parents, and educators.

Addressing Trauma Through Post-Traumatic Stress Therapy