People with PTSD often try to avoid things that remind them of the trauma. This can help them to feel better in the moment, but in the long term it can keep the person from recovering from PTSD. Within PE, a trained therapist asks about the person’s trauma over and over. The person is exposed to the thoughts, feelings, and situations that they’ve been avoiding which can help them learn that they don’t need to avoid reminders of the trauma. This helps them to develop more control over thoughts and feelings about the trauma, which supports them to overcome the fear associated with the memories. The therapist will help the person to slowly do the things they’ve been avoiding.
After a trauma, it’s common to have negative thoughts — for example, thinking that what happened is the person’s own fault or that the world is dangerous place. CPT helps a person to identify and change these thoughts. By changing thoughts about the trauma, it can impact how they feel. Within CPT, a trained therapist works with the individual to complete worksheets about the negative thoughts and beliefs that are upsetting them. The therapist will then help the person to challenge those thoughts and think about the trauma in a less overwhelming way.
EMDR can help process upsetting memories, thoughts, and feelings. A trained therapist will work with the person who is experiencing PTSD to choose a memory from the traumatic event and will help them to identify the negative thoughts, emotions, and feelings that are in their body that go with the event. A therapist guides the individual to focus on specific sounds or movements while the person talks about their trauma. This helps the brain work through the traumatic memories. Over time, EMDR can help change how a person reacts to the memories of their trauma. Once the memory becomes less upsetting, the therapist will support the individual to add a positive thought.