What is Cognitive Processing Therapy?

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What is Cognitive Processing Therapy?

Cognitive processing therapy is a type of psychotherapy that employs techniques such as cognitive restructuring and exposure therapy to help people transform negative thoughts and beliefs. This 12-session treatment may be especially helpful for individuals suffering from PTSD, anxiety, depression or other mental health issues.

The initial stage of CPT involves psychoeducation about PTSD, including its symptoms that may impact your everyday life. Here, you’ll discuss how trauma has shaped and continues to shape your experiences as well as identify goals for therapy.

Your therapist can teach you skills to use when faced with upsetting or stressful circumstances. These cognitive coping techniques are called cognitive coping skills, and they can help keep you calm during difficult times.

Once you’ve acquired these techniques, it will become easier for you to manage stress better on your own. Your therapist may even collaborate with you on developing strategies for avoiding future PTSD relapses.

Reconceptualizing your thought patterns can be particularly helpful if you feel responsible for a traumatic event. For instance, if you’ve been injured in a car accident, you might feel the burden of accepting responsibility for its outcome. However, this process doesn’t have to be limited only to trauma recovery; it also applies to any other trauma as well.

At CPT, your therapist will assist you in exploring these thoughts and determining whether they are beneficial or detrimental. Furthermore, they’ll teach you strategies for replacing negative ones with more optimistic ones so that you feel more in control of your life.

Next, your therapist will collaborate with you to craft a detailed account of the traumatic event that caused your PTSD. When in session, read this account aloud to them and they can ask you questions about it.

Your therapist can then assist in recognizing any harmful thoughts that arise during this process. For instance, if you’ve had a negative experience with a driver in the past, it could have created an inaccurate impression of them.

By applying Socratic questioning, your therapist will challenge any negative interpretations of the traumatic event that are keeping you from moving forward in life. They may use exercises that allow for identification and modification of unhelpful thoughts and beliefs during sessions or as homework.

Finally, your therapist can assist in compiling a list of the most negative feelings related to the traumatic event and exploring them with you. For instance, if anger is part of your response, they can identify how this emotion is contributing to PTSD symptoms.

The last stage of CPT involves acknowledging any secondary emotions you may be feeling. These can arise as a result of how you believe your traumatic event has impacted other areas of life, such as safety, trust, power and control, self-worth and intimacy.

At this stage, you’ll also address any other phobias or fears that have emerged as a result of your trauma. These could include anxiety about heights or an intense fear of spiders, for instance.

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