The Eclectic Approach to PTSD Treatment

Treatment for PTSD will depend on the needs and desires of the person seeking treatment. Some of the most common modalities for treatment of PTSD are listed below:

Behavioral or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This approach looks at ways in which a person thinks about a problem, learned to certain triggers associated with that problem and ways in which thinking affects the emotional state. This treatment often uses a combination of exposure (deliberately thinking about an event or confronting a trigger) and relaxation training along with cognitive restructuring or changing thoughts or beliefs about that event or trigger. This process tends to desensitize a person’s response to reminders of the event so that it no longer carries the same emotional impact. This can be a very effective treatment.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

This modality uses exposure to the traumatic memory paired with “bilateral stimulation” of the brain by tracking the therapist’s finger or string of lights with the eyes or listening to alternating tones. Current thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and beliefs are activated and the tracking helps to reduce emotional and physiological reaction to the memory. This desensitization helps to process negative beliefs about themselves to adaptive, healthy and more accurate beliefs. There have been numerous studies over the years on EMDR and has shown to be a rapid and effective treatment for PTSD.

Group Therapy

Group therapy can be helpful following a traumatic event as it provides a safe and supportive environment in which to discuss a shared experience with others. There is often a felt sense that nobody understands and a group can help a person to feel less alienated, normalizing reactions to an abnormal event.

Medication

Medication is an option but many avoid this as they may feel stigmatized for doing so. Traumatic events can influence the neurochemistry of the body and brain, impacting the person in many ways. Excessive stress hormones can make it difficult to concentrate, relax or even sleep. They can increase blood pressure, muscle tension, skin conductance and general arousal levels. Traumatic events can also impair immune system functioning, making people more vulnerable to illness. Medication can be an effective way to reset these levels in the brain and may prove to be very helpful for a period.

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