PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a DSM-classified psychiatric disorder that’s triggered by a traumatic episode. Individuals who experience or witness a life-threatening or terrifying event tend to have severe anxiety, fear, and uncontrollable thoughts regarding the traumatic episode. This can cause nightmares, incessant flashbacks, insomnia, hypervigilance, and a lingering feeling of numbness.
Research has shown that psychotherapy interventions can be extremely effective in treating PTSD. In fact, it’s the most common type of treatment used for this psychiatric disorder. Trauma-focused psychotherapies exist in various forms and help bring about greater improvement as opposed to medication and other forms of treatment. The most commonly used among these are:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
A form of talk therapy, CBT, helps in identifying, understanding, and altering negative thinking patterns. It allows patients to learn skills that they can then apply in various settings to reduce the onset of negative automated thoughts. This helps in lowering the risk of them experiencing certain traumatic events again and being triggered by certain things.
Another type of behavioral therapy, this type of intervention puts patients in situations where they get to face their fears in a safe and controlled environment. It makes use of mental imagery, virtual reality programs, and other exposure techniques and is especially effective for countering flashbacks and nightmares.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR uses a string of guided eye movements alongside exposure therapy to help individuals process their traumatic memories, and consequently, change the way they perceive and react to them.
How Psychotherapy Helps with PTSD
The different modalities of psychotherapy help individuals with PTSD in various ways. This form of treatment can be administered individually as well as in group settings, making it easier to conduct. The several techniques employed help the individuals heal from their traumatic experiences. Often by revisiting the event multiple times to fully process their emotions and thoughts regarding it. Of course, this also depends on the type of trauma experienced and the patient’s own capacity to revisit the episode.
Psychotherapy also helps PTSD victims learn new coping mechanisms and skills to deal with the symptoms of the condition. For instance, they can learn strategies for cognitive restructuring, mindfulness and relaxation, and emotion regulation.
How Long Does It Take For the Treatment to Work?
Psychotherapy isn’t an instant fix for PTSD. In most cases, it can take up to 3 months for the therapy to start working. Individuals may continue with their sessions for 6 months, a year, or more, depending on their particular case. Since treating PTSD involves discussing trauma, it takes time for patients to feel comfortable enough to talk openly about it and be willing to try the interventions suggested by a psychotherapist.
A trained psychologist such as Dr. David E. Myers, who specializes in psychotherapy and counseling, can help you treat your symptoms of PTSD and slowly get your life back on track. Reach out to him by making an appointment at his clinic in Birmingham, AL!