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Psychiatric Treatments for PTSD
In the psychiatric treatment of PTSD, a blended approach involving both psychotherapy and medication is the most common course of action. Treatment for PTSD tends to be highly individualized, as what works for one patient may not work for another.
What kind of psychiatric therapy is commonly involved in treating PTSD?
Most therapists experienced with the treatment of PTSD will use one form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. This has been shown to be an effective treatment for PTSD. CBT for PTSD centers around identifying, understanding and changing patterns or habits in thinking or behavior. It essentially teaches a set of skills that a patient with PTSD can apply to their symptoms in order to better cope with them and alleviate their severity. CBT treatments are typically outpatient and last between 10 and 16 weeks.
Specific forms of CBT used to treat PTSD
Cognitive Processing Therapy, or CPT, is a type of CBT focused on identifying, recognizing and changing thoughts rather than behaviors. CPT is centered on the kind of thoughts and experiences that people commonly have after being subjected to a traumatic event. Patients will commonly have irrational and exaggerated thoughts or beliefs due to the effects of PTSD, and these can frequently prevent a patient from progressing in recovery.
CPT teaches a patient a range of skills to carefully analyze and consider thoughts or feelings. By identifying whether a thought is supported by evidence, patients learn to reconsider their initial reactions and evaluate them as useful or helpful. If a thought is not helpful, CPT treatment encourages a patient to reevaluate a set of circumstances to try to find a more helpful or useful way of analyzing or judging a given situation.
Many people with PTSD develop avoidant behaviors around anything likely to remind them of trauma. Avoiding memories of traumatic events is not a long-term solution, as it prevents a patient from appropriately confronting and processing their trauma in a way that will enable them to recover more fully from PTSD.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PET) is similar to CBT but adjusts and adapts behavioral therapy techniques to enable people suffering from PTSD to incrementally process trauma-related memories and emotions. PET relies on techniques of revisiting and discussing details of the patient’s trauma and systematically exposing the patient to situations, places or other factors tied to a strong memory of the trauma.
Similar to CPT, itself another form of CBT, is Stress Inoculation Training, or SIT. SIT is intended to give patients the skills they can use to successfully cope with the stress and anxiety that are part of PTSD. People in SIT essentially re-learn new reactions for stimulus linked to the trauma.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) involves a patient recalling and processing memories of traumatic events while tracking a moving light with their eyes. Some forms of therapy similar to EMDR involve the use of sound. It is thought that by focusing on a simple task (like tracking a light) while experiencing feelings, memories or thoughts linked to the trauma, this treatment can enable a patient’s brain to store memories of the traumatic event differently, unlinking them from the trauma response.
Are you interested in psychiatric treatment for PTSD?
If you or someone you know would benefit from treatment for PTSD, these are just a few of the available options. PTSD is also treated with medication. The best way to learn more is to speak with a qualified professional in your area.
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