Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop after a shocking, dangerous, and traumatic event. During this event, you believe your or others’ lives are in danger. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 13 million Americans struggled with PTSD in 2020.
Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, negative changes in mood and cognition, and avoidance. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are connected. CBT for PTSD can improve emotions and encourage healthy behaviors.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that helps people deal with their emotions and thoughts. It treats problems like feeling very worried, sad, or scared.
In CBT, therapists help you understand how your thoughts, feelings, and actions are connected. Sometimes, people have negative thoughts that make them feel bad. CBT teaches you to find these negative thoughts, question them, and replace them with more realistic and positive ones.
CBT can be done one-on-one with a therapist, in groups, or online. It’s one of the best ways to help with mental health problems and is sometimes used with other treatments like medicine.
How Can CBT Help With PTSD?
CBT is helpful for people who have gone through tough experiences and feel very stressed or scared afterward, which we call ptsd treatment in Orange County, CA.
CBT for PTSD can be helpful in the following ways.
Sometimes, people with PTSD have thoughts that make them feel even worse. CBT teaches them to find and replace these bad thoughts with more realistic ones, making them feel less scared and anxious.
CBT also helps people gradually get used to things that remind them of their tough experiences, like talking about them or going to places related to them. This helps them become less scared over time.
People with PTSD often feel extremely stressed. CBT teaches them ways to relax and calm down when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
CBT helps people test their beliefs and see if they’re actually true. This can make them feel less worried and stressed about their experience.
Many people with PTSD have bad dreams. CBT can teach them how to sleep better and manage those scary dreams.
CBT for PTSD gives people tools to manage their stress and fear independently. This makes them feel more in control of their feelings.
CBT teaches people how to prevent their complicated feelings from coming back and taking over their lives again.
Everyone’s situation differs, so how each person uses cognitive behavioral therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder might differ. CBT can be used alone or with other things like medicine or mindfulness to help with PTSD.
How is CBT Used to Treat PTSD?
In CBT, therapists use a variety of techniques. But in CBT for PTSD, there are specific approaches to help reduce PTSD symptoms which include the following.
First, the therapist talks to the person to learn about their tough experience and how it’s affecting them. They create a safe place to talk about feelings.
People learn how their thoughts, feelings, and actions are connected. This helps them understand why they feel the way they do.
They figure out things that make them feel scared or upset, and the therapist helps them understand why these things are causing problems.
People learn to challenge thoughts that make them feel worse. They find evidence for and against these thoughts to see if they’re true or not.
The therapist helps the person talk about their tough memories or things that remind them of the bad experience. This technique is done slowly and carefully to make it less scary over time.
They learn how to think better about themselves and the world. This can make them feel less stressed and upset.
People learn ways to stay calm when they’re feeling stressed. This can include deep breathing and staying focused on the present moment.
They practice doing things they’ve been avoiding because of their bad memories. Trying new things helps them feel more normal and less scared.
They learn to spot signs that they might feel horrible again. This way, they can use their skills to stop it from worsening.
People practice what they learn outside of therapy, so they can get better at using their new skills.
They keep track of their progress and change their treatment plan if needed.
What are Some Common CBT Interventions for PTSD?
The following are common interventions in cognitive behavioral therapy in Orange County, CA for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Individuals are guided to vividly recall and describe the traumatic event in a safe environment. This helps process the memories and reduce their emotional impact over time.
People gradually face situations or places that trigger trauma-related anxiety. This helps them learn that these triggers are not as dangerous as they thought.
Cognitive restructuring involves identifying and challenging negative thoughts about the trauma. Individuals learn to replace these thoughts with more balanced and realistic ones.
By combining imaginal and in vivo exposure, prolonged exposure therapy in Orange County, CA helps individuals confront and process traumatic memories to reduce their distress.
Individuals learn practical techniques to manage distressing symptoms, such as relaxation exercises and mindfulness.
CBT for PTSD may also use holistic interventions such as breathing and grounding techniques to manage anxiety and other symptoms.
Is CBT Effective for PTSD?
Yes, CBT is good at helping people with PTSD. Many studies have shown that CBT can make a big difference in reducing the symptoms of PTSD and making people feel better after experiencing something traumatic.
Some important points to know about cognitive behavioral therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder include:
- Many scientists have studied CBT and found that it works well for PTSD. It’s backed by solid scientific evidence.
- Experts like the American Psychological Association say CBT is one of the best ways to treat PTSD.
- The positive effects of CBT tend to stay even after the treatment is over.
- CBT can help with different types of trauma and for different people.
- CBT can also make other issues connected to PTSD, like feeling sad or anxious, get better.
- CBT is personalized to fit each person’s needs, so it’s very individualized.
While CBT is great for many people, not everyone responds the same. How well it works also depends on how well someone gets along with their therapist and how much they’re willing to be part of the therapy.
What are Some Examples of CBT for PTSD?
When people hear PTSD, they typically think of war. While many people who went to war struggle with PTSD, other traumatic events can cause it.
Sarah is a 22-year-old who went through a tough experience. She saw her younger brother get shot and killed. Because of this, she’s been having symptoms of PTSD for three years now.
She has nightmares about the shooting and avoids the place where it happened. She also tries not to think about her brother’s death. She feels guilty that she couldn’t protect him and has felt sad, angry, and down throughout the year.
Sarah’s PTSD symptoms affect her relationships with her family and work. After checking if she has any other symptoms like grief and depression, and PTSD, it’s clear that Sarah would benefit from around 12 therapy sessions.
Sarah starts talking to a therapist to help her deal with her symptoms and trauma. In each session, her therapist challenges her to think healthier and use techniques to cope better.
When Sarah feels anxious, the therapist helps her see what might be causing it and gives her time to practice changing her thoughts. They also do activities to help her calm down, like deep breathing and relaxing her muscles.
Sarah’s therapist gives her homework to do each week. She writes down how anxious and symptomatic she feels and practices changing her thoughts and using coping skills. As Sarah and her therapist work together, she starts talking more about her feelings and becomes more aware of how blaming herself affects her thoughts.
Bill is a 40-year-old who went through a really tough time. His parents physically abused him until he turned 18, and this left a significant impact on him.
He started feeling the effects of PTSD when he was in his early 20s. This made him jump at sudden movements, avoid talking about what happened to him, feel tense all the time, and get very angry with people in his life.
Around when he was 17, Bill began drinking alcohol to deal with the pain from the abuse. This got him into trouble, and he ended up in a place for young people who break the rules. Now he drinks around twelve big cans of beer, and he’s even been arrested for causing problems.
Bill sees a therapist who knows about trauma and drinking problems. The therapist talked to Bill and realized that he has PTSD and a problem with alcohol. They decided to try acceptance and commitment therapy in their CBT sessions.
Bill’s therapist helps him learn to accept his feelings and thoughts, even when they’re hard. They do mindful meditation and muscle relaxation exercises to help Bill relax and deal with his emotions.
Bill also talks about his past and how he feels with his therapist. He’s practicing handling his anger without hurting others and trying to drink less. With the therapist’s help, Bill is learning to cope better with his feelings and make positive changes in his life.
What are Four At-Home CBT Exercises for PTSD?
When you are not in cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, you must practice the coping skills for post-traumatic stress disorder you learned in therapy. Here are four at-home CBT exercises you can do to help with PTSD.
Write down a thought that’s been bothering you about your trauma. Then, write down how this thought makes you feel. Next, list evidence that supports the thought and evidence that goes against it. Finally, create a more balanced thought that considers both sides.
Try this easy breathing exercise to calm yourself when you feel anxious and are in need of CBT for generalized anxiety disorder. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for 7, and exhale through your mouth for 8 counts. Do this a few times whenever you’re feeling stressed.
Lie down and focus on your body. Start with your toes, tense them for a few seconds, then relax. Move up through each muscle group, tensing and relaxing. This can help release tension and stress.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, use your senses to ground yourself. Name five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
These exercises can be helpful, but everyone is different. Give them a try and see which ones work best for you. If your PTSD symptoms make life hard, consider talking to a mental health professional who can guide you further.
How to Find a CBT Therapist for PTSD?
With so many therapists, knowing which one you should see can be difficult. Your primary care doctor should be able to refer you to one. Today, many therapists offer telehealth appointments making it easier to attend therapy.
How Much Does CBT Cost?
Most CBT sessions are covered by health insurance. To find out if your insurance covers therapy or if you have any out-of-pocket expenses, call them directly or check with our treatment center.
What are Some Alternatives to CBT for PTSD?
While CBT is a common way to treat PTSD, other approaches might work better for different people. These alternatives are also proven to work and have been studied to see how well they help with PTSD symptoms.
EMDR in Orange County, CA uses eye movements with lights to help the brain process trauma. This helps people handle their emotions and memories from the trauma better. Research shows that EMDR can be effective for short-term PTSD treatment.
Exposure therapy in Orange County, CA exposes individuals to things that trigger panic or anxiety, helping them become less sensitive to these triggers over time. Research suggests exposure therapy can reduce PTSD symptoms, especially panic and fear.
Other therapies might help process difficult memories and feelings, like EFT tapping. These can complement the primary therapies.
CPT teaches people to recognize and challenge unhealthy thoughts connected to their trauma. This helps them avoid getting stuck in negative thoughts and feelings about the trauma.
Adler Health Can Assist Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with CBT
If you or someone you love is struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, help is available. At Adler Health in Orange County, CA, our CBT program for PTSD is helping people get control of their life again. Contact us today and find out how we can help you.