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Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD by Dr. Sally Nazari

Research has shown Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) to be an effective method for recovery from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). CPT is an evidenced based therapy, which means that it has been proven to be effective through rigorous scientific research. It helps individuals understand and change how they think about their trauma and its aftermath by connecting thoughts, feelings, behavior and physical reactions. Recognizing how certain thoughts about trauma bring on stress can lead to finding more positive ways to deal with the trauma.

PTSD can develop as a result of physical or sexual abuse or assault, military combat witnessing violence or death or any other traumatic event. The overall goals of CPT are to reduce PTSD symptoms, as well as associated symptoms such as depression, anxiety, guilt and shame and to improve daily life.

CPT consists of 12 individual therapy sessions in which individuals will learn about the symptoms of PTSD and why some people develop it. CPT provides a way to understand why recovery from traumatic events is difficult and how symptoms of PTSD affect daily life. The individual and therapist will collaboratively focus on identifying how traumatic experiences change thoughts and beliefs, and how thoughts influence current feelings and behaviors. A key part of the treatment is addressing ways of thinking that might keep individuals stuck and get in the way of recovery from symptoms of PTSD. It is important to know that CPT does not involve repeatedly reviewing the details of the traumas although individuals will be asked to write about  their experiences in order to realize how those experiences affected their thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

After each session individuals will be given practice assignments to complete. These assignments are designed to more rapidly reduce PTSD symptoms outside of the treatment sessions. All of this helps individuals realize the role their thoughts about their surroundings and themselves contribute to feeling afraid so that they can replace those thoughts with more positive and accurate ones. This leads to a calmer feeling and a sense of control in their life. It also helps the individuals let go of anger, fear and guilt and acknowledge that what happened was not their fault.

Not everyone entering therapy for PTSD will have the same goals. The initial sessions will include figuring out specifically what an individual’s life will look after working through the trauma symptoms. Many individuals have benefitted greatly from this empowering therapy model.

Sally Nazari, PsyD is a licensed psychologist, Usui Reiki Master Teacher, and Jikiden Reiki practitioner providing individual, group, couples and family therapy in Nyack. Her interactive and solution-focused approach highlights compassionate understanding to help people work through personal life issues. For additional information, visit or call 236-5612.

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