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Everything About Cognitive Processing Therapy

Cognitive Processing Therapy

Cognitive processing therapy is a proven way to help those who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or other trauma disorders. It is a type of therapy that helps those who have suffered from a traumatic event reshape their thought process to live a happier life. Finding a qualified therapist for Cognitive processing therapy can help you or a loved one overcome struggles with PTSD.

Cognitive Processing Therapy: What is it?

Cognitive processing therapy is a form of therapy that challenges the thoughts and feelings someone has related to a traumatic event they have experienced. After experiencing a trauma, a person can struggle with negative thoughts and fears related to their distressing memories. Cognitive processing therapy helps these individuals overcome this negative thinking by helping them understand the trauma and providing tools to discount the negative thoughts that slow their recovery.

Cognitive Processing Therapy Theory

Cognitive processing therapy was developed around the theory that some individuals do not recover from a traumatic event over time like others are able to do. This can be related to a coping mechanism that prevents the person from thinking about the trauma at all. Slow recovery or the development of PTSD is also associated with negative thought patterns that prevent a person from moving forward in their recovery.

How Does Cognitive Processing Therapy Suggest the Mind Works?

Cognitive processing therapy suggests the mind typically recovers from a traumatic event over time as the person comes to terms with what they experienced and move forward in their life. For some people, this recovery is stalled by “stuck points” that prevent the person from gaining a complete understanding of what happened to them and instead causes them to focus on negative feelings about themselves and the world around them. There are five recognized areas of negative thoughts, including:

  • Safety: feeling unsafe in certain situations and helpless to protect yourself or those around you.
  • Trust: unable to believe the motivations of those around you or rely on your own instincts.
  • Control: believe there is nothing you can do to improve your situation or positively impact the lives of people you love.
  • Self-esteem: feeling like you are broken and undeserving of positive experiences and emotions.
  • Intimacy: lack of connection with others you love because you feel like no one can understand you or relate to your experiences.

These negative thoughts prevent you from moving past your traumatic experience. They can also manifest themselves as symptoms of anxiety and depression.

How Does Cognitive Processing Therapy Cause Change?

Cognitive processing therapy helps people recover from PTSD by changing their negative thought patterns and helping them address their trauma. During therapy, a person is challenged to identify the negative thoughts they have formed about themselves or others because of their trauma. Once they are able to recognize these negative thoughts, cognitive processing therapy challenges the person to identify how these thoughts are preventing them from moving forward with their life. The therapy sessions teach people how to separate the negative feelings they have about their trauma from the current experiences and relationships they have.

What Happens in a Cognitive Processing Therapy Session?

Cognitive processing therapy typically consists of 12 therapy sessions. During these sessions, there are a variety of strategies used by therapists to help a person recover from their PTSD. These techniques can be applied in an individual or group setting, depending on the trauma experienced and the therapist and patient’s preferences.

Techniques Used in Cognitive Processing Therapy

When starting cognitive processing therapy, the therapist will educate the person on PTSD, symptoms associated with PTSD, and the strategies that will be used in future therapy sessions. This is an important part of therapy that allows the person being treated to gain a better understanding of their disorder and how treatment will benefit them.

Over the next sessions, therapists often ask the individual to write about their trauma and the negative impact it continues to have on their life. They will discuss these experiences, to the degree that the individual feels comfortable, and work on developing ways to overcome the negative thoughts. Often, people are given worksheets or assignments during therapy and for home to help them apply these skills to their daily life.

Once the person feels comfortable identifying their negative emotions and adjusting their thought process to improve their daily life, the therapist will work with them to improve their mindset related to the five areas of safety, trust, control, self-esteem, and intimacy. Improving thoughts about themselves and others around them in these areas allows the person to get back to their life, develop and improve relationships, and move forward with their goals.

Cognitive Processing Therapy

Does Cognitive Processing Therapy Work?

Cognitive processing therapy is a proven therapy that has been extensively studied, especially for people suffering from PTSD.

What Kinds of Concerns is Cognitive Processing Therapy Best For?

Cognitive processing therapy can be used to help any individual who has suffered from a traumatic event and is having trouble recovering. Specifically, it has been studied for people who have suffered from sexual abuse and victims of rape. It has also been shown to help those who had traumatic experiences in the military. It can also be used for someone who was witness to a death or was involved in a traumatic accident.

Cognitive processing therapy can be especially helpful for those who continue to be exposed to situations related to their trauma. Cognitive processing therapy can help these people develop coping strategies that allow them to be exposed to these situations and differentiate their trauma from the situation in front of them. For example, military members or emergency responders who must continue to work in violent or potentially traumatic environments can benefit from this therapy.

How Are Cognitive Processing Therapy Specialists Trained?

There are training courses available for therapists interested in cognitive processing therapy. Providers can complete training and become certified in cognitive processing therapy. They are often required to maintain education and training in this area to remain certified. There are also guidelines and manuals available for these providers to apply cognitive processing therapy effectively.

Concerns/Limitations of Cognitive Processing Therapy

Cognitive processing therapy works to help many individuals recover from PTSD, but this therapy is not appropriate for everyone. First, the person participating in therapy should have received a diagnosis of PTSD before starting therapy because this therapy may not be appropriate to help someone who is struggling with issues that are not from a traumatic event. Additionally, cognitive processing therapy involves homework and writing, so if someone struggles with or is unable to read and write they may not be appropriate to receive this type of therapy. There are other treatment options available for these individuals.

Before starting therapy the person should know that they will be expected to reflect on and talk about their traumatic experience to some extent. While most people find that the benefit of therapy outweighs the distress they experience when discussing their trauma, this is not the case for everyone. If the person is still experiencing the trauma or is currently in danger, their safety should be a priority before initiating therapy. Similarly, if a person is a danger to themselves or cannot talk about their experience without a significant impact on their mental health (i.e. panic attacks, dissociation, suicidal thoughts, etc.) then they should receive treatment to address these concerns before starting cognitive processing therapy.

Important Practitioners in Cognitive Processing Therapy

Dr. Patricia Resick, who has studied PTSD and effective therapeutic interventions extensively, was involved in the development of cognitive processing therapy. Dr. Candice Monson and Dr. Kathleen Chard are also credited with developing cognitive processing therapy along with Dr. Resick. Together they developed the Cognitive Processing Therapy Veterans/Military Version therapist’s manual. Dr. Chard also developed the Cognitive Processing Therapy for Sexual Abuse manual. Through their collective research related to PTSD and publications, they have helped other clinicians effectively apply this therapy for their patients. They continue to be involved in many organizations developed to help those with PTSD.

How to Find a Therapist

Finding a therapist can be intimidating, but there are resources available to help. Reaching out to therapists in your area can help you identify those who have experience working with people who suffer from PTSD. If you have been diagnosed with PTSD by a mental health professional, they can help you find a therapist trained in cognitive processing therapy. Your primary care provider may also be able to refer you to a therapist for help.

Online therapy is also a great option for finding a therapist. This method of therapy allows for flexibility in scheduling appointments. It also provides easy access to a large group of therapists who are qualified to work with those who suffer from PTSD.

What Should I be Looking for in an LMHP?

When you are searching for an LMHP to help you with your PTSD, there are some traits that will help ensure you receive excellent care.

Look for a therapist who has received training in cognitive processing therapy. These individuals will be the most qualified to help you overcome your PTSD symptoms. They should also have experience working with individuals who have suffered from trauma similar to yours. This experience will help ensure your therapist is familiar with the strategies used in cognitive processing therapy.

Your therapist should make you feel comfortable. During cognitive processing therapy, you will be expected to relive some of your most distressing moments. You should feel comfortable talking with your therapist and sharing your experiences. They should make you feel safe, and you should feel like you can trust them to help you overcome these struggles.

Find a therapist who is an adaptable problem solver. Having experience working with others is important, but it is essential your therapist understands that each individual’s experience is different. They should be able to apply strategies used in cognitive processing therapy in a way that works for your life and your current situation.

Questions to Ask a Potential Therapist

When you begin working with a therapist, here are some questions you should consider asking them:

  • What is PTSD?
  • What symptoms or complications does PTSD cause?
  • Why am I experiencing PTSD symptoms?
  • What is your experience with cognitive processing therapy?
  • How does cognitive processing therapy work?
  • Do you practice cognitive processing therapy in groups or with individuals?
  • Can PTSD be cured or will I still have symptoms after therapy?
  • Are there medications that can help me manage my symptoms?
  • How can I explain PTSD to my loved ones?
  • Are there other people with PTSD I could talk to?
  • What other resources are available for me?

Find a Therapist Now

ThriveTalk has a qualified team of telehealth therapists that can help you overcome your struggle with PTSD symptoms. By choosing to match with one of our therapists, you can be connected with a mental health provider who specializes in cognitive processing therapy and can work with you to improve your quality of life. Online therapy allows you a convenient, effective way to manage your symptoms and start to move forward with your life.

Cognitive processing therapy is an extremely effective method for treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Cognitive processing therapy educates those suffering from PTSD on the condition they have, the symptoms they might be experiencing, the complications of PTSD, and how cognitive processing therapy will help them overcome their condition. Worksheets and assignments help PTSD sufferers identify how their condition is impacting their life currently and how to adapt their thinking to decrease this impact. Cognitive processing therapy teaches those with PTSD that their negative thoughts are from their traumatic experience, and that they can find healthy ways to cope with their trauma.

If you or someone you love is suffering from PTSD, find a qualified therapist in cognitive processing therapy to help them get their life back.












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