Cognitive Processing Therapy

A Guide to Evidence-Based CPT Practices for Trauma Recovery

You may already know the burden of trauma from your life or that of a loved one. Trauma can result in ongoing negative effects, which can be severe. The good news is that extensive research provides the efficacy of trauma and PTSD treatment. Evidence-based trauma treatment is effective and practiced at Icarus in New Mexico.

As one of the most impactful approaches, cognitive processing therapy is a form of therapy designed to help those who have undergone traumatic experiences overcome them and their effects. So, what more should you know about this valuable therapeutic method?

This article will go over how cognitive processing therapy can help you recover from trauma, the techniques and practices frequently used in cognitive processing therapy, and how Icarus Behavioral Health offers help with the treatment of PTSD or trauma using a comprehensive approach.

What is Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), and How Does it Help With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

What is Cognitive Processing Therapy

Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a form of mental health therapy developed in the 1980s by Dr. Patricia Reisck. Derived from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), CPT was created to help people overcome traumatic events and post-traumatic stress disorder-related symptoms.

CPT differs from standard cognitive-behavioral treatment because it focuses on overcoming symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and reprocessing trauma and can include different or more specialized treatment activities. It can be used on its own or alongside other treatments, which is often the case in treatment centers with comprehensive treatment programs.

Therapists who use CPT may conduct treatment in individual therapy or group sessions. While everyone pursuing this form of therapy is unique with different needs, CPT usually takes about 8-12 sessions for clients to see results. Each CPT session will last for about 60-90 minutes.

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An Effective Way to Recover from Traumatic Events

CPT was originally formed to help victims of sexual assault. However, for more than 30 years, research on CPT in the field of clinical psychology has shown its effectiveness for survivors of various traumatic events, including but not limited to abuse, war, and natural disasters.

The Veterans Administration’s National Center for PTSD indicates CPT as an effective form of treatment for PTSD and trauma. It is also endorsed by the United States Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense and the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies for PTSD treatment.

In addition to other treatments, such as CBT and prolonged exposure therapy, CPT is one of the evidence-based therapies Icarus Behavioral Health offers to address trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.

What Are the 5 Themes of Cognitive Processing Therapy?

Themes of Cognitive Processing Therapy

The five themes of cognitive processing therapy outline five areas of your life where you may face obstacles as a result of PTSD. CPT emphasizes social cognitive theory by connecting how traumatic experiences can alter your worldview. As a result, the treatment focuses on healing the five following areas or themes:

  • Safety: If you have experienced trauma, you may feel unsafe (even in circumstances where your safety is not threatened) or doubt your ability to protect yourself and other people.
  • Trust: If you have experienced trauma, you may question your own judgment or other people’s intentions, leading to a lack of trust in yourself or others.
  • Power and control: After a traumatic event, you may feel as though there’s little to nothing you can control in life.
  • Esteem: A common PTSD symptom is disproportional negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself, others, or the world. You may view yourself or other people adversely after trauma.
  • Intimacy: If you have experienced trauma, you may struggle with getting close to other people, trusting other people, or you might face other challenges in intimate relationships.

A CPT therapist will help you identify how post-traumatic stress disorder-related symptoms affect you personally and the parts of your life that are most impacted during initial sessions. As with most types of therapy, you will work to build trust with your therapist and go over relevant parts of your personal history first.

After that, your therapist will use CPT practices to help you work on your goals and find relief. At Icarus, our clinical team embraces a trauma-informed approach, and will provide a personalized treatment plan to include CPT as well as other offerings specific to your needs.

CPT Practices for PTSD Symptoms and Trauma Recovery

Here are some common practices used in cognitive processing therapy. Although this is not a full list of techniques, it can give you an idea of what to expect after the first phase of treatment.

In CPT, you learn skills that help you untangle maladaptive automatic thoughts, reduce overall PTSD symptoms or scores, and cope in day-to-day life effectively through effective treatment for PTSD.

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A Written Trauma Account

Writing a written trauma account or a journal consists of writing a detailed account of your traumatic event. After that, you may read the account of your traumatic experience out loud in a therapy session. This can also be called an impact statement.

While instructing clients to create an impact statement or written account is a common practice among CPT therapists that can be incredibly valuable for the right person, note that not all CPT therapists will instruct you to write a written account of your trauma. Some will focus on more cognitive techniques instead. Like with most forms of therapy, CPT can be adapted to fit your specific needs.

Socratic Questioning in CPT

Socratic questioning is a technique where mental health professionals use specific questions to uncover how traumatic events affect your current life, thoughts, or emotions. For example, let’s say that you experience self-blaming thoughts and negative emotions, such as guilt and self-directed anger.

Therapists may use questions like “What is the evidence to support that thought?” or “If someone you love had this thought, what would you say to them?” Often, providers will help you zoom out and see the bigger picture with this technique or start to explore ways to see things differently.

Creating a New Perspective

Once you have identified negative or unhelpful thoughts, CPT therapists will use cognitive techniques to help you reframe them and create a new perspective. For example, you may come to find that you’re judging yourself more harshly than you’d judge a friend in your shows.

From there, you can work with your therapist to challenge negative beliefs.

Find Lasting Trauma Recovery at Icarus Behavioral Health

Trauma Recovery at Icarus Behavioral Health

Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a treatment method that can help you overcome and recover from a traumatic experience. The providers at Icarus Behavioral Health consist of experts in multiple therapy methods, including CPT. Our programs allow you to engage in multiple complementary therapies that aid in the treatment of PTSD and co-occurring disorders for comprehensive, whole-person healing.

If you or a loved one are struggling to manage trauma, proven programs of support are found at Icarus.

If you’re ready to learn more about how our dedicated team can help you overcome a traumatic event, contact us today!

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About CPT for PTSD

What does cognitive processing therapy do?

Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a research-backed and effective treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder-related symptoms. Cognitive processing therapy works by first helping you identify “stuck points,” which refer to negative thoughts created by trauma that lead a client to get “stuck” in unhelpful patterns or beliefs.

Once stuck points are identified, your CPT therapist will help you create a more realistic, balanced, and helpful perspective. CPT can also help you overcome avoidance symptoms and build a toolkit of adaptive strategies for daily life.

What is the difference between CBT vs CPT?

Difference Between CBT vs CPT

While CPT stems from CBT, the two aren’t the same. CBT can be used broadly for anxiety, depression, stress, substance use, and a wide range of other concerns. Although CBT can help with trauma on its own or in conjunction with other treatments, especially if your goal is primarily to transform negative or maladaptive thoughts into more positive or adaptive ones, CPT places a more precise and marked focus on PTSD or trauma-related symptoms and healing.

Who should not do cognitive processing therapy?

Cognitive processing therapy is often ideal for people who have experienced traumatic events like childhood sexual abuse, other forms of child abuse, adult interpersonal violence, war and military affairs, or natural disasters.

However, CPT may be less suitable for some people with co-occurring disorders or who have needs that would be better addressed by another form of therapy. Icarus Behavioral Health will help you create a customized treatment plan with therapies and treatments that work for you.

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