Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Why PTSD Therapists Recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating mental health condition that affects millions of individuals worldwide. The impact of traumatic experiences can be profound, and finding effective treatment is crucial for those who suffer from this condition. Two effective treatments for PTSD are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE). Delve into the science behind these therapies, their benefits, and why experienced PTSD therapists often recommend them.

Understanding PTSD

Before diving into the therapies, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of PTSD. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and an overwhelming sense of fear. These symptoms can have a severe impact on one’s quality of life, making it difficult to function in daily activities.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 7.7 million adults in the United States alone suffer from PTSD, highlighting the urgent need for effective treatment options.

PTSD therapy provides a safe and supportive environment for individuals to process their traumatic experiences, understand their symptoms, and develop coping mechanisms. Working with a qualified PTSD therapist can significantly improve the chances of recovery and enhance overall well-being.

The Search for Effective PTSD Treatments

Effective treatments for PTSD are crucial, as this condition can be incredibly distressing and challenging to overcome. Numerous therapeutic approaches have been explored, but Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) have consistently proven to be the most effective options.

The Power of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a widely recognized and evidence-based treatment for PTSD. It is grounded in the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected. Here’s how CBT works:

Restructuring Negative Thought Patterns: CBT helps individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns related to their trauma. By doing so, they can gradually replace these distressing thoughts with more positive and constructive ones.

Exposure and Desensitization: CBT incorporates gradual exposure to trauma-related stimuli. Therapists guide patients through confronting their fears, desensitizing them to their triggers and helping them regain control over their emotional responses.

Skill-Building: CBT equips individuals with coping strategies and skills to manage stress, anxiety, and intrusive thoughts effectively. This empowerment is invaluable in the recovery process.

Embracing Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) with a PTSD Therapist

Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) is another evidence-based treatment for PTSD that aims to help individuals confront their traumatic memories and fears directly. Key components of PE include:

Imaginal Exposure: During this phase, individuals recount their traumatic experiences in detail, repeatedly revisiting the memory to desensitize themselves to the associated emotions and fears.

In Vivo Exposure: In this phase, patients gradually face situations and places that they have been avoiding due to trauma-related fears. This real-world exposure helps them regain a sense of control and safety.

Breathing and Relaxation Techniques: Prolonged Exposure Therapy includes relaxation techniques to manage anxiety and distress during exposure exercises.

What the Research Says

PTSD therapists utilize evidence-based treatment modalities tailored to the specific needs of each client. CBT aims to identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with trauma. Research has shown that CBT can significantly reduce PTSD symptoms in up to 50% of cases.

And in fact, many studies consistently show that CBT and PE significantly reduces PTSD symptoms and improves overall mental well-being.

This 2020 systematic review found that Cognitive Processing Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Prolonged Exposure are the manualized CBT-Ts with the strongest evidence of effect for treating PTSD, and recommends that these findings should guide evidence-informed shared decision-making between patient and clinician.

A 2007 study revealed that individual trauma-focused CBT is an effective treatment for PTSD in children and young people.

In a 2021 study on CBT, researchers evaluated its effectiveness in managing stress-related disorders and improving mental health. They reviewed 345 articles published between 1987 and 2021, including 14 systematic reviews and 45 randomized controlled trials. The results showed that CBT was effective in addressing various mental, physical, and behavioral problems such as anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and antisocial behaviors.

In a 2012 study examining the effectiveness of CBT, researchers reviewed 106 meta-analyses that focused on a wide range of problems. They found that CBT was particularly effective for anxiety disorders, somatoform disorders, bulimia, anger control problems, and general stress. In comparison with other treatments or control conditions, CBT showed higher response rates in most cases. Overall, the study found strong evidence supporting the effectiveness of CBT.

A 2018 study revealed that intensive prolonged exposure therapy was found to be effective in PTSD patients with multiple interpersonal trauma and after multiple previous treatment attempts, and in this chronic PTSD population, it was safe.

Results from a 2005 study suggest that prolonged exposure therapy may be a rapid individual treatment for the secondary prevention of combat-related PTSD.

In a 2012 randomized clinical trial, a brief written exposure therapy was found to significantly reduce PTSD symptoms and meet diagnostic criteria for PTSD in motor vehicle accident survivors, with treatment gains maintained at 30 weeks post-baseline assessment.

The Synergy of CBT and PE

In many cases, therapists may employ a combination of CBT and Prolonged Exposure Therapy to address PTSD effectively. These therapies complement each other by targeting various aspects of the disorder, such as thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and the emotional responses triggered by traumatic memories.

The collaborative approach between CBT and Prolonged Exposure Therapy allows for a more comprehensive and tailored treatment plan, enhancing the chances of a successful recovery.


PTSD is a challenging condition, but it is not insurmountable. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Prolonged Exposure Therapy have consistently proven to be the most effective treatments for PTSD. These therapies empower individuals to confront their fears, regain control over their lives, and ultimately find healing and hope.

Why Choose COPE Psychological Center

At COPE Psychological Center, we are committed to providing the highest level of care to those seeking help for PTSD. Our experienced and compassionate PTSD therapists are well-versed in CBT and Prolonged Exposure Therapy, and they work closely with each individual to create a customized treatment plan that addresses their unique needs.

Our comprehensive approach to healing doesn’t stop at therapy. We provide a safe and supportive environment, offering resources and guidance throughout the entire journey to recovery.

Contact us today and embark on your journey to recovery with COPE Psychological Center.