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Counseling for PTSD - Topic Overview

When you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dealing with the past can be hard. Instead of telling others how you feel, you may keep your feelings bottled up. But talking with a therapist can help you get better.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one type of counseling. It appears to be the most effective type of counseling for PTSD. In CBT, a therapist helps you deal with your feelings about the past. You'll have weekly hour-long visits for a few weeks or months or as long as it takes for you to feel better. CBT may help you have fewer PTSD symptoms over time.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) may also be an effective treatment.

What is cognitive therapy?

After a traumatic event, you might blame yourself for things you couldn't have changed. For example, a soldier may feel guilty about decisions he or she had to make during war. Cognitive therapy, a type of CBT, helps you understand that the traumatic event you lived through was not your fault.

In cognitive therapy, your therapist helps you understand and change how you think about your trauma and its aftermath. Your goal is to understand how certain thoughts about your trauma cause you stress and make your symptoms worse.

You will learn to identify thoughts about the world and yourself that are making you feel afraid or upset. With the help of your therapist, you will learn to replace these thoughts with more accurate and less distressing thoughts. You also learn ways to cope with feelings such as anger, guilt, and fear.

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