Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) is a type of psychotherapy that has been shown to be effective in treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
PE aims to help individuals confront and process traumatic memories in a safe and controlled environment. In this article, we'll explore what you need to know about Prolonged Exposure Therapy for PTSD, including its goals, techniques, and evidence base.
What is Prolonged Exposure Therapy for PTSD?
Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) is a type of psychotherapy that aims to help individuals confront and process traumatic memories in a safe and controlled environment. PE is based on the theory that avoiding trauma-related memories or triggers can contribute to on-going symptoms of PTSD. By gradually exposing the individual to the feared memory or trigger, PE can help the individual learn that they can manage their reactions to the trauma memory and decrease the intensity of associated symptoms.
PE typically involves 8-15 weekly sessions, each lasting 90 minutes to two hours.
The therapist will work collaboratively with the individual to create a hierarchy of feared situations or memories, starting with less distressing situations and gradually working up to more challenging ones. The individual will then confront each trigger repeatedly until it no longer causes significant distress.
PE involves several techniques that are designed to help the individual confront and process the traumatic memory or trigger. These techniques include:
- Imaginal Exposure: The individual is guided to recall the traumatic memory in detail, repeatedly and in a structured and safe way, in order to become desensitised to the memory.
- In Vivo Exposure: The individual is gradually exposed to feared situations or objects in real-life situations, starting with the least anxiety-provoking situations and working up to more challenging ones.
- Mindfulness Techniques: The individual is taught mindfulness techniques, such as breathing exercises or relaxation techniques, to help manage the distress that may arise during the exposure process.
PE sessions typically involve the individual confronting the traumatic memory or trigger and then discussing it with the therapist. The therapist will help the individual identify any negative thoughts or beliefs associated with the memory or trigger and challenge these thoughts in a safe and supportive environment.
Evidence for Prolonged Exposure Therapy for PTSD
PE has been extensively researched and has been shown to be an effective treatment for individuals with PTSD. According to the American Psychological Association, PE is a recommended treatment for PTSD, with similar efficacy to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR). Research studies have shown that PE can significantly reduce PTSD symptoms, improve quality of life, and decrease the risk of relapse.
In addition to its effectiveness, PE is a relatively brief and cost-effective treatment. The structured and goal-oriented nature of PE makes it a popular choice for individuals seeking treatment for PTSD.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) is an evidence-based treatment for PTSD that has been shown to be effective in reducing the intensity of traumatic memories and associated symptoms. PE involves gradually exposing the individual to the feared memory or trigger in a safe and controlled environment.
If you or a loved one is struggling with PTSD, know that you are not alone. Seeking therapy for PTSD can be a challenging step, but it can also be a life-changing one. Our experienced and compassionate therapists are here to support you in your journey towards healing and recovery. With evidence-based therapies such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), we can help you manage your symptoms, process traumatic memories, and develop healthy coping strategies. Don't let PTSD control your life any longer – reach out to us today to schedule an appointment and start your path to healing.