Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for PTSD
Treatment Beyond the Fear
Medicine is obsessed with treatment, and in every physical disorder they attempt to develop a cure that will help either cure or at least slow the progression of a disease. In the case of physical disabilities, a treatment can “easily” be provided, by for instance, the use of a prosthetic limb or a wheelchair. Medically, any physical affliction always has an equivalent remedy.
Psychological disorders, in spite of the stigma that surrounds them, has made good strides in treatments that are available for individuals. However, it is not well known, and in some cases, not well documented simply because, like anything revolving around these kinds of conditions, it is not publicly accepted.
PTSD, also known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is an ailment that is psychological in nature which can easily cripple an individual for the rest of their lives, if not recognized and treated as early as possible. However, like mentioned earlier, treatments are not as publicly available to anyone who needs them, and for good reasons. This is because the medications used can be quite toxic and typically need a prescription before it can be purchased.
Luckily, there are other options available that do not directly involve pharmaceutical products.
What is CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy)?
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, easily known as CBT, headlines the treatment that psychiatrists would normally recommend for individuals suffering from PTSD. However, this is just an umbrella term is defined by two components and at least four types in total.
So, what are these two components of CBT?
First is cognitive restructuring. This is based on the thought that some individuals, although not all, may supress some parts of the experience. This can be because the experience may either be too traumatizing for them or they may be embarrassed about it. The latter usually results in the person leaving it out during the retracement of the experience when sharing the story with either a psychiatrist or another individual. This component helps the person retrieve the memory and accept it so as to get a more factual perspective of the experience.
The second component is exposure therapy, which is basically re-exposing the individual to the cause of his/her PTSD. There are many ways to achieve this and that includes guiding the person to create a mental image of the experience or expressing it through pen and paper. If that does not work with the individual, there may be the option of go to the place where the trauma happened. This concept uses desensitization, which means, gradually exposing the individual to the cause of the trauma, which in turn, will hopefully help the person develop healthy coping mechanisms.
It will require at least 8-12 sessions with each section requiring at least an hour.
Moreover, if the technology required is available, psychiatrists may employ virtual reality as a way to employ exposure therapy. It is generally the same, but more controlled.
Having said all that, it should be taken away that there are also multiple ways to approach the concept of CBT. Like we said earlier, CBT is just an umbrella term and there are many kinds of approaches that employ the concept.
So, what are the different kinds of CBT?
CPT, or Cognitive Processing Therapy is one type of CBT which focuses on the individual’s perception of himself and their surroundings after the trauma that they went through. It was designed based on the notion that sometimes, inaccurate thoughts about the experience prevents the person from moving beyond the trauma and back to the present time. This type of CBT allows them to express their perception, and to look at them factually. The end state is that, hopefully, this helps them develop a more realistic view on the experience, and develop helpful ways to cope with the disorder.
Another type of CBT is what medical professionals call Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR. This type focuses more on the external stimulus that may trigger the responses related to his/her PTSD. It could be loud blast noises or simply the wailing of a fire truck. They are continuously exposed to these stimuli in order for them to be slowly desensitized, maybe creating a more realistic view on these external factors, and they do so with a back and forth eye movement. Although studies have been shown that the effectiveness of this process is due to the exposure rather than the eye movement.
The other type is what we would call SIT, which means Stress Inoculation Training. This is fundamentally teaching the individual coping mechanisms which they could use to keep the anxiety attacks under control. It can be used with other forms of CBT, or it can easily help with the treatment on its own. From my own experience with pre-deployment training, this is something that we went through as a type of pre-emptive training.
Prolonged Exposure, on the other hand, is another form of CBT, but it is basically one component of the therapy, though extended as much as it needs to be.
Of course, there are also pharmaceutical products that anyone could take as long as there is a prescription available, but, sometimes, these can only go so far. It takes a strong personal will in order to overcome PTSD. It also includes different healthy coping mechanisms and the support of those around you to reach a full recovery.
Psychological disorders might have a negative stigma surrounding them, but that does not mean treatment is not available. It is available to those who want them. Throw fear out the window, acknowledge the trauma, and seek help, and you will be well on your way to becoming better.