To conquer the impact that PTSD and the coexisting symptoms have in your life, you must gain ample and detailed knowledge of the disorder.
Learning what PTSD is, where it comes from, why you developed it, what it feels like to you and others, and what feasible options for treatment are available can be done without the help of a mental health professional if you have an education and access to viable sources of information.
However, implementation of therapeutic approaches and medicine management should be done under the care of a certified mental health professional, whether it is a psychiatrist or a psychologist.
Please keep in mind that your therapist-patient relationship is one of the most important components of mental health treatment, and a huge predictor of your success. Choose your therapist wisely and make sure you research their credentials.
I battled the symptoms and side effects of PTSD for many years and learned many valuable lessons through my healing journey. The most important message for others is that to conquer this syndrome, the person must take the disorder apart, piece by piece, and understand and address the fundamentals behind the symptoms. Knowledge of the disorder will help you address the amount of chaos and imbalance that the coexisting symptoms bring to your life.
Without in-depth knowledge of PTSD, there is no therapy or medicine management (or both) that would help you heal permanently. Even the best therapists in the world can only help you overcome certain aspects of the disorder, but they cannot force your brain to be retrained: this must be done by you.
Therapy, medicine, and brain retraining must be molded for your needs, and you must carve your own path to success and happiness. In my honest unfiltered opinion, PTSD must be felt to be understood, so do ample research when choosing your therapist.
You have the power to change your mind by changing your approach to PTSD.
Therapy for PTSD
Below is a brief overview of the therapeutic approaches that have consistently proven to be valuable, relevant, and useful for me and other PTSD sufferers I have interacted with.
Whether it’s firsthand experience or academic knowledge, this list of available therapy options for people diagnosed with PTSD and C-PTSD addresses the most relevant and important aspect of the disorder and the symptoms. To conquer PTSD, a person must work on changing two major players in the game, which are perception and behavior. This list introduces you to the most relevant approaches that address the need for changes in these areas that are huge problems for PTSD sufferers.
Finding a suitable therapeutic combination approach for your case of PTSD is paramount for your recovery. There is no single therapeutic approach that works best for healing the symptoms of PTSD for everyone because PTSD is not a ‘one size fits all’ type of disorder.
In many cases, therapists resort to a combination of psychotherapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), EMDR Therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Somatic Psychotherapy, and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) to help their patients.
Regardless of your choice of therapeutic approach, having background knowledge of your disorder will help you feel more prepared when finding a therapist. Your therapist must be willing to work on a long-term plan of action for your recovery, not simply recommending and prescribing psychotropic medications to help manage your symptoms.
If you purchased this guide is because you are serious about your healing or you look to help someone affected by PTSD. Knowledge of PTSD and therapy are crucial components of healing.
A crucial component of therapy is the relationship with your therapist. To heal permanently, your therapist must foster a genuine, empathic, supportive, and never judgmental relationship. If your therapist is not arming you with actionable tools that are actively changing your life, rethink both your therapy and therapist, and take control of your own PTSD symptoms. I did it, so can you.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is perhaps the most effective set of therapeutic approaches for people with PTSD. CBT includes a variety of methods that target and address important aspects of healing, such as mental restructuring, problem solving, skills training, relaxation techniques and other helpful tools.
Therapists use CBT to help clients identify and develop coping skills, techniques, and strengths that can be later applied to all aspects of their lives. CBT helps people understand and recognize that there’s an interconnection and relationship between your emotions, thoughts, and behavior, and the resulting consequences. In a sense, CBT is based on the idea that how we feel and behave is directly related to our how we perceive the world and the subsequent thought process. So, if you believe in something, then you’re going to behave that way.
CBT helps you recognize that thoughts influence feelings, and that feelings also influence thoughts. For PTSD sufferers, these emotions, thoughts, and feelings are distorted or distressing due to the traumatic experiences.
A good therapist will be able to tailor CBT to your specific needs. CBT is a great approach because it changes (restructures) negative beliefs that fundamentally affect the way you operate at a personal and professional level and help you retrain your brain to use more functional and positive ones.
CBT will teach you to identify and reexamine the way your PTSD brain thinks and perceives the world. It encourages you to change those awkward thinking patterns to more balanced and effective ones. Effective thinking methods remove the catastrophic thought process that leads to always expecting bad outcomes, and the negative thinking that trumps all positive thinking and affects your actions and reactions.
Systematic desensitization is a technique developed for the treatment of anxiety-related problems. It is a form of CBT used to effectively help people overcome phobias and anxieties.
Systematic desensitization gradually exposes the person to an anxiety-provoking event while (at the same time) being engaged in some form of relaxation technique. It usually begins with the person imagining themselves in a series of progressively fearful situations, and then using relaxation strategies to compete with the anxiety.
Once the person successfully manages their anxiety while thinking about fearful events, they can use the strategy in real life situations.
The useful component of this approach is that it gives you a new set of healthy associations to those situations, people, or objects (the events in your life) by connecting them to feelings of relaxation, calmness, comfort, and willingness to interact without fear or anxiety.
Exposure therapy (ET) is another type of CBT often used in the treatment of PTSD and phobias. ET is an effective approach to treat and control anxiety and fears. This approach is based on the idea that fears can be extinct from the mind. ET’s purpose is to help people face and gain control of their anxiety and distress brought on by the traumatic experience.
A crucial component of ET is to remember that while some traumatic memories can be dealt with all at once (this is known as flooding), some other people or traumas must be addressed gradually (this is known as desensitization), starting with the least stressful events, and slowly working towards the most anxiety-provoking situations. Personally, I think ET is far more successful when used in conjunction with muscle and mind relaxation exercises. These coping techniques are very helpful in preparing a PTSD mind to tackle the event or fear. In a sense, relaxation, mindfulness, and imagery exercises serve as a buffer or shield for PTSD warriors when they decide to take on Exposure Therapy.
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
Another approach under the umbrella of CBT, Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is [typically] conducted in a 12-session format, and it is used in the treatment of PTSD.
CPT focuses on how the traumatic event is interpreted and coped with by a person trying to regain control of their life. CPT helps you change faulty thoughts that manifest in the form of false and damaging negative self-statements, interfere with your recovery process, and keep you from functioning at a level where you can enjoy life.
CPT is a great technique because it reduces the power and impact of fearful memories by activating the frightening memory and at the same time introducing additional information that is incompatible with the person’s current faulty beliefs about that memory. Think of CBT as a shock and awe technique.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE)
Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) is an intervention strategy that helps people confront and overcome their fears. PE is based on a concept known as Emotional Processing Theory (EPT), which states that exposure can change the link between feelings by activating the ‘fear network’ and staying in contact with the fear until it reduces the anxiety.
PE teaches PTSD sufferers to gradually approach trauma-related memories, feelings, situations, and people. Traumatic events leave you with intrusive thoughts, disturbing nightmares, and feelings of depression, hopelessness, and hypervigilance. It is natural to want to avoid thoughts, feelings, objects, and people that remind you of the trauma, but unnatural for that avoidance to interfere with your life.
PE’s goal is to progressively help you re-engage with life, especially in the areas that you have been actively avoiding because they are reminders of trauma. Although each therapist has their own methods of providing therapy, PT is typically presented over a three-month period with individual weekly sessions.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is another form of CBT that emphasizes the psychosocial characteristics of treatment.
DBT believes that some people are more susceptible to react in an exaggerated manner when confronted with certain emotional situations that relate to romantic, family, or friend relationships. For these people, arousal levels increase much quicker, they achieve a higher level of emotional stimulation and it takes then a significant amount of time to return to normal base levels.
DBT is a therapeutic method that teaches skills to control these sudden and intense surges of emotions through support-oriented, cognitive-based, and collaborative components in treatment.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy is a psychotherapy treatment effective in alleviating the distress associated with traumatic events.
The Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model is the guiding principle of EMDR. This model states that mental health, is supported by positive and successful experiences that progressively prepare a person to handle new challenges and obstacles because the brain is a flexible machine equipped to handle, manage, and process distress.
EMDR is an eight-phase treatment that enables people to heal from symptoms and emotional distress that result from disturbing life experiences such as a traumatic event. EMDR places attention to three periods in a person’s life: the past, the present, and the future.
I believe that EMDR therapy is proof that the mind can heal from psychological trauma, just like your bones can recover from a fracture.
Somatic psychotherapy encompasses a series of therapeutic approaches that focus on the body rather than the mind.
Approaches like Somatic Experience® and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy engage full body awareness so that the person can release the physiological and psychological impact that trauma has on a person's life.
Somatic awareness, that is, the awareness of your body’s sensations, can teach you how to measure your body’s responses so that you can recognize when traumatic experiences are no longer an issue that hold your healing and progress back. Somatic psychotherapy can also help you ‘catch yourself’ before you react in a manner that it not conducive to your mental well-being and life balance.