Some trauma survivors are hesitant to get help from a mental health professional because they think it's a sign of weakness. But there are many reasons (including chemical changes in the brain) why some people are more prone to issues like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
If you or a loved one is in need of help, don't wait. There are many treatment options that can help you or them feel better and deal with stressful feelings and situations that can come from trauma.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This type of well-researched "talk" therapy is strongly recommended for the treatment of PTSD. It's also regularly used to treat depression and anxiety in people who have gone through a trauma.
The goal of CBT is to work through negative, harmful thought patterns and challenge them. For example, if you believe that terrible things will always happen, your therapist will try to change your tendency to over-generalize, so that you’re better able to evaluate situations.
You'll probably need 12-16 sessions of CBT. They can be in a one-on-one setting or in group therapy.
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
This specific type of CBT involves detailing the trauma -- you may be asked to write an account of it -- and rehashing it with the help of your therapist to adjust your response to it.
CPT usually takes 12 sessions. It may be combined with other CBT techniques.
Prolonged Exposure (PE)
Another subtype of CBT, this is pretty much what it sounds like: You'll slowly and repeatedly be "exposed" to the traumatic event, either by imagining it in detail or, if possible, going to a place or re-creating a situation similar to your event.
While most people desperately want to avoid thinking about the trauma because it's so stressful, deliberately and strategically reliving it within the safe confines of therapy is one of the best ways for it to lose its power over you.
You'll probably have 8 to 15 sessions of this.
Brief Eclectic Psychotherapy (BEP)
It shares some similarities with CBT, but it’s a much more targeted approach designed to take place across 16 sessions. You'll be asked to bring a support person with you to the first one, and during that meeting, you'll provide an overview of your trauma while the therapist outlines future sessions.
In sessions 2 to 6, you relive the trauma by talking about it as if it's happening right now. You might be asked to bring in clothing, mementos, or other things to help the process along.
After a mid-treatment check-in (session 7), the later appointments focus on how the trauma has changed your view of yourself and the world around you. You’ll also talk about what you learned from the trauma.
In the final session, you’ll summarize what you've learned in therapy. You might also take part in a farewell ritual to help you symbolically close the door on this phase of your life.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy
Unlike other forms of therapy that spotlight your emotions and reactions to a trauma, this focuses only on the memory of the event itself. The underlying concept is that some people have a hard time moving past their trauma because it was never properly processed in their brain.
Your therapist will guide you in a series of eye movements. Hand taps, buzzers, or lights might also be used while you're asked to briefly think about your trauma.
Most people who choose EMDR need 6-12 sessions.
Some trauma survivors also need medicine. Your doctor might prescribe any number of antidepressants to help ease symptoms, but only sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil) are approved by the FDA to treat PTSD.
Some people choose between medication and therapy. But for many people with depression, a combination is best. Talk to your doctor or mental health professional about what might work best for you.