Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PET)
If you have experienced a traumatic event or series of events, the last thing you probably want to do is to relive the painful and terrifying memories. Unfortunately, for those living with post-traumatic stress disorder, disturbing events are often experienced over and over again in the form of intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and nightmares. Prolonged Exposure Therapy is a type of psychotherapy that is designed to help people process trauma-related memories, confront their fears, and ultimately reduce trauma-induced psychological disturbances.
At Blair Wellness Group, we utilize a variety of evidence-based treatments and therapeutic modalities including Prolonged Exposure Therapy to develop personalized therapy plans designed to meet the unique needs and goals of each of our clients. Trauma affects everyone differently, but the one thing that many people have in common is that their symptoms often prevent them from fully experiencing life. If you’re living with PTSD and would like to learn more about Prolonged Exposure Therapy or how Blair Wellness Group can help, please contact us to make an appointment.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD is an anxiety disorder commonly associated with those who have experienced military combat. However, there are many other types of traumatic experiences that can cause someone to have PTSD symptoms. Some of the most common causes of PTSD include abuse, rape, automobile accidents, violence, chronic illness, witnessing the death of a loved one, acts of terrorism, and natural disasters.
Trauma can unleash many different thoughts, feelings, and symptoms that can be detrimental to emotional and physical health. Although experiences will vary from person to person, it’s not uncommon for people with PTSD to suffer from a combination of emotional symptoms such as anxiety, panic attacks, and flashbacks, but they can also have physical disturbances such as insomnia, digestive upset, and headaches as well as unexplained aches and pains.
PTSD is one of the most severe forms of trauma with symptoms that can increase in severity and last indefinitely without professional intervention and a commitment to therapy. That’s why it’s important to seek help instead of just trying to manage on your own, hoping that you’ll feel better over time.
Exposure therapy is a behavioral therapy that helps people heal from the distressing thoughts and feelings associated with PTSD. It is natural for people to want to avoid situations, people, places, and even thoughts that trigger negative feelings such as anxiety. Avoidance is a normal protective response that, in some situations, can be beneficial. However, in most PTSD cases, avoidance behavior extends into many areas, and is so frequent that it can reduce a person’s quality of life.
The goal of exposure therapy is to encourage an individual to face their fears in a safe and supportive environment. By confronting fear and anxiety head-on, it lessens its impact and eventually, avoidance behavior can be eliminated altogether.
There are four different types of exposure therapy — In Vivo, which is designed to help a person confront feared objects or situations, Imaginal, which addresses feared thoughts and memories, Interoceptive, which helps people confront feared physical symptoms, and Prolonged Exposure. Prolonged Exposure Therapy is used almost exclusively for PTSD cases.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy and PTSD
PET has been found to be very effective for treating symptoms of PTSD because it incorporates elements from each of the other three types of exposure therapy. Sessions usually start with learning about how the process works and what to expect. Then, patients learn how to control their breathing. When someone experiences trauma, or if they are re-living the memories of a traumatic event, breathing becomes shallow which only increases anxiety. By learning how to control breathing when frightened or upset, you can in turn reduce anxiety.
Once breathing techniques are addressed, it’s time to address the people, places, or situations that are reminders of the trauma. Once they have been identified, they can slowly start to be addressed. The goal is to no longer have to avoid everyday scenarios that cause anxiety if they are not a true threat to health or safety.
Finally, as with all forms of psychotherapy, PET involves an in-depth discussion of the thoughts and feelings surrounding the traumatic event in order to work through each aspect of it. Through this discussion, patients learn that trauma-related memories are not dangerous, nor do they need to be avoided.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy is just one option for treating PTSD, but it’s a very effective one and its benefits are long-lasting. Although it requires someone to revisit unpleasant memories, PET can help individuals feel more in control of their thoughts and emotions so they can start to progress down a path toward healing.
Benefits of Prolonged Exposure Therapy
For those with PTSD whose lives have been disrupted by ongoing fears, anxiety, and avoidance behaviors, PET is a valuable tool that can offer multiple benefits including:
Reduced Trigger Effects
Everyday sights, sounds, or experiences no longer cause anxiety symptoms
Greater Control Over Thoughts and Fears
No longer feel like a victim of your emotions or feelings tied to past events
Reduced Avoidance Behaviors
Re-engage in activities and social situations that once triggered fear and anxiety
Improved Daily Functioning
With reduced anxiety and learned methods for controlling fear, you can engage in daily activities with less fear and distress.
These are just a few of the benefits that Prolonged Exposure Therapy can provide for those who have been diagnosed with PTSD. It has also been found to be effective for reducing comorbid disorders such as depression, social anxiety disorder, personality disorders, substance abuse, and addiction.
Contact Blair Wellness Group for PTSD Therapy
If you struggle with the lingering effects of PTSD, know that it’s possible to live a happy and fulfilling life free of fear and anxiety. At Blair Wellness Group, we specialize in treating people with PTSD as well as a variety of other anxiety disorders and mental health conditions. To learn more about Prolonged Exposure Therapy or for PTSD therapy in Beverly Hills, contact our office at 310.999.4996 to make an appointment.
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