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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for PTSD

Treatment for PTSD Proven to Work

Dr. Kehle-Forbes uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help clients process their trauma-related thoughts, memories, and feelings. She most often use a treatment called Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE), which is a talk therapy. Every published guideline for the treatment of PTSD gives PE its highest recommendation. That is because more than 50 high-quality studies have shown that PE is particularly helpful in reducing or eliminating PTSD symptoms. PE has been shown to work for:

  • Men & women

  • People with one trauma & those with multiple trauma types

  • Veterans, service members, and civilians

  • All types of trauma (e.g., sexual assault, physical assault, combat trauma, natural disasters, car accidents)

  • People with recent trauma & those whose trauma was years ago

While no one treatment works for everyone, research has found that most people's PTSD improves following PE. In addition, people often see improvements in depression, more general anxiety, anger, their social relationships, and their quality of life.

Components of Prolonged Exposure Therapy

People with PTSD usually try to avoid thoughts, feelings, and situations that remind them of their trauma. While this can make you feel better in the short-term, it can keep you from recovering from PTSD in the long-term. PE teaches you to gradually approach memories and situations that you have been avoiding since your trauma. In other words, PE works by helping you face your fears. By approaching trauma-related reminders in a safe setting with the support of your therapist, you can gain a sense of control over your trauma-reminders and decrease your symptoms of PTSD.     

There are three main parts of PE.

  1. Psychoeduction. You will learn more about the symptoms of PTSD, the theory of what keeps PTSD active, and why PE is helpful.

  2.  In Vivo Exposure. In Vivo, meaning "in life," exposure involves confronting safe situations that you have been avoiding because they remind you of your trauma or traumas. With Dr. Kehle-Forbes, you will make a list of trauma-related people, places, or situations that you have been avoiding. Some people call these reminders triggers. Throughout PE, you will work through approaching the items on the list. You will confront them gradually; meaning you will start with those that feel manageable and work up to those that feel more difficult. Over time, you will become more comfortable confronting these reminders and will no longer need to avoid them. 

  3. Imaginal Exposure. Imaginal exposure involves purposefully revisiting the memory of your trauma. Specifically, you will talk through the details of your trauma with Dr. Kehle-Forbes. Talking through the trauma repeatedly will help you process the memory in a new way. It often reduces negative feelings like fear, guilt, or anger and results in fewer unwanted memories of the trauma. You will talk through your trauma memory with Dr. Kehle-Forbes during sessions and listen to recordings of the imaginal exposure between sessions. If you have more than one trauma that is haunting you, imaginal exposure may be done with more than one memory.

Approaching trauma-related memories and reminders can be difficult and sounds scary to many people with PTSD. You will always have control in PE; the choice of whether to approach any trauma-reminder is always up to you. Dr. Kehle-Forbes will serve as your coach and cheerleader as you work to overcome your PTSD. PE requires a strong therapeutic relationship. Dr. Kehle-Forbes will prioritize building a safe, trusting environment where you will feel able to confront your trauma. 

What to Expect from Prolonged Exposure

PE is a short-term treatment. It usually involves 8-15 weekly sessions, meaning that treatment lasts 3-4 months. PE sessions can be either 60 or 90 minutes. With Dr. Kehle-Forbes, you will decide which session length works best for you. PE also involves daily at-home practice between your sessions with Dr. Kehle-Forbes. You will practice in vivo exposures and listen to the recording of your imaginal exposure. This at-home practice is essential for getting the greatest benefit from PE.

While PE is relatively brief, it does require a commitment of time and emotional energy. But many clients have found it is worth the investment. There is every reason to believe that with hard work you will be able to reclaim your life from PTSD.  

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