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What is CPT for PTSD?

It's CPT...not CBT​​


Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is often confused for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), most likely because the names sound similar. However, CPT and CBT are quite different!


What is Cognitive Processing Therapy? 


Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is an evidence based treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that was developed about 30 years ago. CPT is known for being a fast acting treatment. CPT can reduce PTSD symptoms in as little as 12 sessions! 

Woman reading at a desk
CPT has been endorsed by the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies and by the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense. 
What happens during a CPT session?  


Each of the 12 CPT sessions lasts about 50 to 55 minutes. In the first CPT sessions, I will help you learn how to complete the CPT worksheets (also called “practice assignments”). 

Once you’ve learned how to complete the worksheets, our sessions will usually consist of reviewing your completed worksheets, challenging and redirecting unhelpful thoughts about the trauma, and engaging in an interactive teaching topic. 

What teaching topics will we cover? ​​

Teaching topics will include: 

  • Identification of and connections between thoughts, emotions, and body sensations

  • Trust issues

  • Safety issues

  • Power and control issues 

  • Esteem issues

  • Intimacy issues


What are the CPT worksheets like? 


Click here to see an example of what a CPT worksheet looks like: CPT Worksheet PDF


The CPT worksheets are a very important part of this therapy, and clients will be expected to complete the assigned worksheets approximately once per day until the 12 sessions are complete. 


CPT worksheets ask clients to write down an unhelpful thought about the trauma, how they feel when they reflect on that thought, and write a thought that is more helpful. 


It usually takes about 5 to 15 minutes to complete each worksheet. 

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What if I struggle to complete the CPT worksheets?


Before you do any worksheets on your own, I will practice completing the worksheets with you to make sure you understand how they work. 

I will also help you troubleshoot any difficulties you might have with completing worksheets. Common difficulties include things like forgetting to complete worksheets, struggling to complete worksheets due to perfectionism, etc. 

What types of trauma can give someone PTSD?


Some examples of trauma that might give someone PTSD include: childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault or rape, physical abuse, witnessing the death of another person and/or being involved in an accident (perhaps a car accident). This is not a complete list of every type of trauma that may cause PTSD.

What symptoms can CPT help reduce?  

It’s important to remember that every client’s experience with CPT is unique, but here are some symptoms of PTSD that CPT may help reduce:

  • Intrusive and distressing memories about trauma 

  • Dissociation (or feeling disconnected/withdrawn/numb)

  • Avoiding people, places, conversations, etc. that remind you of the trauma 

  • Flashbacks (or feeling as if the trauma is happening all over again) 

  • Negative beliefs about oneself, others, or the world (for example, having thoughts like “I am bad,” “There is something seriously wrong with me,” “No one can be trusted,” “The world is completely dangerous” etc.) 

  • Nightmares

  • Feeling self blame about the trauma 

  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions 

  • Being irritable and/or having angry outbursts 

  • Reckless and/or self-destructive behavior 

  • Hypervigilance (or being on the lookout for danger all the time)

  • Exaggerated startle response 

  • Sleeping too much or too little 

    *You do not have to have every PTSD symptom to be diagnosed with PTSD. This is not a complete list of PTSD symptoms*

What if I'm not sure whether or not I have PTSD?   


Keep in mind that PTSD does not always look the way it appears on TV. As a trained professional, I can help determine whether your symptoms meet criteria for PTSD.

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How do I know if CPT is right for me?   


The best way to determine whether a certain type of therapy is right for you is to talk to a professional. I would be happy to answer any questions you have about CPT and help determine if this therapy is right for you. 


Contact me to schedule a free 15 minute consultation to take your first step to get relief from PTSD symptoms! 

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