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Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a therapy used to treat PTSD which addesses the destructive and stressful thoughts surrounding the trauma, and gives you a new way to handle these distressing thoughts and gain an understanding of these events..

CPT has four main parts:

  • Learning about your PTSD symptoms. CPT begins with education about your specific PTSD symptoms and how the treatment can help. The therapy plan will be reviewed and the reasons for each part of the therapy will be explained. You will be able to ask questions and to know exactly what you are going to be doing in this therapy. You will also learn why these skills may help.
  • Becoming aware of thoughts and feelings. Next, CPT focuses on helping you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. When bad things happen, we want to make sense of why they happened. An example would be a Veteran who thinks to himself or herself, "I should have known that this would happen." Sometimes we get stuck on these thoughts. In CPT you will learn how to pay attention to your thoughts about the trauma and how they make you feel. You'll then be asked to step back and think about how your trauma is affecting you now. This will help you think about your trauma in a different way than you did before. It can be done either by writing or by talking to your therapist about it.
  • Learning skills. After you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, you will learn skills to help you question or challenge your thoughts. You will do this with the help of worksheets. You will be able to use these skills to decide the way YOU want to think and feel about your trauma. These skills can also help you deal with other problems in your day-to-day life.
  • Understanding changes in beliefs. Finally, you will learn about the common changes in beliefs that occur after going through trauma. Many people have problems understanding how to live in the world after trauma. Your beliefs about safety, trust, control, self-esteem, other people, and relationships can change after trauma. In CPT you will get to talk about your beliefs in these different areas. You will learn to find a better balance between the beliefs you had before and after your trauma.

Information provided by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
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