There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment plan that works for everyone with a history of trauma, but some treatments are more common than others.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the idea that some mental health problems are linked to unhealthy patterns of behavior or ways of thinking. During a cognitive therapy session, a trained therapist helps a patient recognize faulty thinking patterns, improve their problem-solving skills and increase their confidence. A CBT session may also include some role-playing to help the patient learn how to resolve conflict in a healthy way.
Cognitive Processing Therapy
Cognitive processing therapy is a form of individual therapy that’s often used as a PTSD treatment. During a CPT session, a therapist helps a patient challenge harmful beliefs related to their trauma, which helps reduce the symptoms of PTSD over time. The therapist also teaches the patient strategies to improve their functioning.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR therapy aims to reduce anxiety and stress related to trauma, particularly in people struggling with PTSD. This therapeutic approach recognizes that past trauma can trigger harmful beliefs and emotions in the present, impairing a person’s adaptive behaviors in the future. During an EMDR session, the patient focuses on a trauma memory while the therapist guides them through a series of tapes, tones or bilateral eye movements.
These exercises help the patient eliminate negative emotions, beliefs and physical symptoms by disrupting the stored memory of the event. An EMDR session typically lasts 50 to 90 minutes, and a patient may engage in three to 12 sessions — or more — depending on the severity of their symptoms.
SE is one of the trauma-focused treatments that can help relieve the symptoms of PTSD and other trauma-related mental health conditions. Developed by Dr. Peter Levine, SE focuses on the physiological responses that occur when someone has traumatic memories. Levine developed SE based on the idea that some people “freeze” during a traumatic experience.
During an SE session, the therapist asks the patient to focus on the physical sensations that occur when thinking about past trauma. Then the patient focuses on happy memories of a person, place or object, giving them the resilience needed to confront the trauma and start to overcome it. According to the SE perspective, shivering, shaking and other physical changes occur when the body starts to expel the energy that built up during the trauma.