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Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD

Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD

A traumatic event can
change the way you think about yourself and the world. You might think you are to blame
for what happened or believe you don’t deserve to be happy. You may start to believe
the world is unsafe — doing things like going to a
grocery store or restaurant may seem too dangerous. These kinds of thoughts
are common in people with posttraumatic stress
disorder, or PTSD. They’re called “stuck points.”
They keep you stuck in your PTSD and cause you to miss
out on the people, places or activities
you used to enjoy. So how do you get “unstuck”? Cognitive Processing Therapy —
or CPT — is a PTSD treatment that can help you break
the negative thinking that’s holding you back. It’s based on the idea that
our thoughts affect how we feel and how we act. In CPT, you and your therapist
will talk about how your negative thoughts about the
trauma — those “stuck points” — have changed you: how safe
and in control you feel, how much you trust
yourself and others, and even your sense
of self-worth. You’ll practice a strategy to
change — or challenge — your stuck points. PTSD can make you jump
to negative conclusions, but there may be other ways to
think about things that are more accurate — and less upsetting. Imagine you’re driving
down the highway, and someone swerves
in front of you. You might blow up at the
driver: “What a jerk!” But what if he was
racing to the hospital, or having a panic attack and
rushing to get off the road? If you considered
these possibilities, you might not feel as angry. The bottom line: small changes
in thinking can have a big impact on how you feel. Some people find that writing
about their trauma helps them change upsetting
thoughts and feelings. You and your therapist
can decide whether or not this is right for you. CPT works just as
well either way. You can also choose to
meet with your therapist one-on-one or in a group
with others who have PTSD. CPT is “evidence-based,”
meaning it’s been shown to work in multiple research studies. And it doesn’t take years. In fact, CPT usually takes about
three months of weekly visits. CPT can help you get “unstuck”
— freeing you up to start enjoying the things you’ve
been missing out on. Men and women, Veterans
and civilians can all benefit from CPT. If Cognitive Processing Therapy
sounds like it could be right for you, talk to your doctor
about finding a CPT provider. Or visit the National Center for
PTSD website at to learn more about CPT
and other PTSD treatments. No matter how long you’ve
been living with PTSD, know that you can get better.

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