Treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

In recent years, the mental health profession has refined its diagnosis and treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop as a reaction to traumatic events, including: experience in military combat, imprisonment, natural disasters, human-caused accidents, domestic violence and child abuse. Unfortunately, many individuals with PTSD go undiagnosed or are not given effective long-term treatment.

Individuals with PTSD have persistent frightening thoughts and memories of their ordeal and often feel emotionally numb. They may experience sleep problems, feel detached or be easily startled. Effective treatments are available, and research is yielding new, improved therapies that can help most people with PTSD lead productive, fulfilling lives.

The leading forms of treatment for PTSD are Prolonged Exposure (PE) Therapy and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). In CPT, individuals learn how to identify, challenge and ultimately neutralize unhelpful thoughts. In Prolonged Exposure Therapy, individuals re-experience the traumatic event in a safe and supportive environment and, eventually, engage in activities they have avoided because of the trauma. The two therapies are based on differing theories about how PTSD develops. In our experience, PE is almost useless in clients who have substance abuse issues, because the therapy itself, by having individuals re-experience their trauma, promotes relapse. Cognitive behavioral therapies are a gentler approach that is more conducive to maintaining substance abuse abstinence in affected individuals.

The Department of Veterans Affairs launched a 17-site, $10 million study last March that will examine the two leading forms of treatment: PE and CPT. The lead investigators Dr. Paula Schnurr, director of VA’s National Center for PTSD and a research professor of psychiatry at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth claims:

“Our primary goal is to compare the treatments…examine which treatments are best for different types of patients….”

Treatment for PTSD is important to mental health in those individuals and their families who suffer with this serious disorder. For more information about PTSD, please contact a health care professional.



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