How Effective Is Psychotherapy for PTSD?

Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee
War veterans often find relief from PTSD symptoms after undergoing group therapy.
War veterans often find relief from PTSD symptoms after undergoing group therapy.

Psychotherapy for PTSD treatment is considered very effective. There are multiple types of psychotherapy for PTSD treatment, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Psychodynamic therapy may also be effective for treating PTSD, especially for those who have been dealing with the effects of trauma for a long time. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is also considered effective psychotherapy for PTSD. Group therapy works well for many survivors of traumatic events, since it allows them to work through their feelings with the help of others who have experienced similar traumas.

Many experts believe that CBT is the most effective type of psychotherapy for PTSD. CBT normally works by helping to desensitize patients to their traumatic memories and the feelings associated with them. This type of therapy can help patients learn to cope with stress, fear, anger, and other emotions associated with the trauma. Many patients develop negative beliefs in the aftermath of trauma. CBT generally seeks to help patients recognize these beliefs and replace them with more positive ones.

Some patients have trouble trusting a professional with their painful memories and feelings, often because the professional has not experienced similar traumas personally. For these patients, group therapy with other survivors of trauma can be very effective. War veterans, refugees, and victims of abuse or violence often find relief from PTSD symptoms after undergoing group therapy.

EMDR is a type of psychotherapy for PTSD that generally uses eye movements to help ease painful feelings associated with traumatic memories. Therapists typically perform EMDR by asking patients to perform repetitive eye movements while speaking of or simply concentrating on a painful event. It is believed that the repetitive eye movements help distract patients from their feelings while reliving the trauma, thereby easing these feelings over time.

A therapist may attempt psychodynamic therapy for PTSD when he believes the patient is in denial about the negative feelings surrounding a traumatic experience. Patients in denial often completely avoid any thought or circumstance that brings back memories of the trauma, and may inappropriately direct negative feelings towards others. Psychodynamic therapy typically seeks to unlock suppressed memories and feelings so they can be dealt with.

The effectiveness of psychotherapy for PTSD can vary, depending on the nature and extent of the trauma and the type of treatment used. Patients who have experienced a singular traumatic event usually recover faster than those who have experienced a series of traumatic events. Those who have witnessed the death of a loved one or friend may have the most trouble recovering from PTSD symptoms, especially if that death was particularly horrific.

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    • War veterans often find relief from PTSD symptoms after undergoing group therapy.
      War veterans often find relief from PTSD symptoms after undergoing group therapy.