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How Effective Is Prolonged Exposure Therapy For PTSD

Despite what you see on television, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not something that can be overcome simply by will power. It is a real and serious condition that can have a profound effect on every aspect of a person's life. While there are many different treatment options available, Prolonged Exposure Therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for PTSD and trauma.

What is Prolonged Exposure Therapy?

Prolonged Exposure Therapy is a form of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) developed by psychologists to help treat people with anxiety associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and trauma. The goal of prolonged exposure is to help people overcome their fear of the traumatic event or its reminders, reduce intrusive thoughts, reduce avoidant behaviors and help them tolerate stress better than before.

Through in-depth imaginal exposure, patients can gradually confront the memories their mind tries to avoid, helping them learn how to react less intensely so that the distress they experience when they are confronted with trauma related triggers reduces over time. During sessions, the patient works through a trauma memory in detail, retelling it first in writing then verbally under safe guidance. Completion of homework assignments strengthens effectiveness outside of session time as well. With this form of protracted treatment, many PTSD and trauma sufferers have been able to gain balance and peace back into their lives.

However, it is important for individuals to understand with prolonged exposure therapy comes an increased risk of short term emotional distress during sessions but that these uncomfortable feelings typically lessen over time. Further, this approach may not be suitable for all individuals depending on the type of trauma they experienced and could require adaptation or alternative forms of treatment.

How effective is Prolonged Exposure Therapy?

Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) was developed by Dr. Edna Foa, who identified the need for an active approach to treatment that could expedite and optimize the healing process. This evidence-based therapy has been effectively used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions associated with traumatic experiences or memories. It is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that helps people face their fear, without actually having to confront the real experience itself. By gradually exposing themselves to the traumatic memory, individuals can learn to process these memories more effectively and reduce distress.

Prolonged exposure therapy has helped countless people cope with difficult life experiences such as major accidents, sexual abuse, and war. The psychological healing achieved by this form of therapy has also had a physical counterpart — many patients have reported reduced levels of chronic pain, improved sleep habits and overall increased levels of wellbeing.

How long for patients to see some degree of results?

While the exact length of time varies based on several factors including diagnosis and overall progress of an individual, generally patients typically begin to see improvement in their symptoms after three months of treatment with PE therapy. The results can often be life-changing, with many individuals noting a dramatic improvement in their symptoms.

Nevertheless, it must be noted that every individual is unique and thus progress rates will vary from person to person. Each individual's treatment plan should be tailored to fit their specific needs, ensuring they receive the best care possible and make the most progress within an appropriate timeframe.

Are there any side effects?

Like any form of therapy, prolonged exposure therapy should be approached with caution. Certain side effects may arise depending on the patient and the type of trauma they are facing. Some people may experience sleep disturbances during or after treatment, as well as an increase in anxiety symptoms or depression. Some people may become overwhelmed by the content of their memory recall and feel emotionally exhausted.

Additionally, if this kind of therapy is not conducted properly by a licensed therapist trained in exposure techniques, there can be serious mental health implications for the patient.

It's important to mention risks associated with Prolonged Exposure Therapy to ensure patients are aware of what potential side effects can come from this form of treatment before embarking on their long journey to recovery.

Final Thoughts

If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, please consider looking into Prolonged Exposure Therapy as an option for treatment. As mentioned in my blog PE Therapy has been shown to be highly effective in treating the symptoms of PTSD by desensitizing patients to their triggers and helping them to process their trauma.

As with any forms of therapy, there are always risks and side effects associated with PE Therapy, but when administered and overseen by a qualified professional, these risks are greatly minimized.

If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, please encourage them to seek out this type of therapy as it could greatly improve their quality of life. Recovery from PTSD is possible, and Prolonged Exposure Therapy could be the key to unlocking that recovery for you or your loved ones.

I pray for healing in your recovery.

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