What kind of therapies are effective for treating PTSD?
[Lt. Col. Philip Holcombe] There are multiple treatments that are effective with
post-traumatic stress disorder.
There are some key components that you can find within those treatments
that the research says, "Hey, these are the things that work."
One common component is exposure treatment. So, exposure treatments
can include those imaginable kinds of exposure treatments where you may
have the person with post-traumatic stress disorder imagine—
purposefully bring on the thoughts and the memories of the trauma.
So their tendency is to want to avoid those and now you're telling them,
we're not going to avoid those anymore because the more you avoid them,
the more they keep coming back, so we're going to take them on,
and you have them imagine the trauma in detail.
Another way to do exposure is when a person with post-traumatic stress disorder
starts to avoid the regular things in life, you say,
Hey, we're going to work on not avoiding those things anymore,
so you're not going out with your family anymore because you feel like
you can't take the noise.
Well, we're going to have you work on being able to take the noise.
So there's imaginable exposure, which is the thinking about, and then there's
behavioral, which is the actual doing of that.
Another common element in the treatment that people find effective
is that when you have a post-traumatic stress disorder and it shakes
your world view, you may start to think about life in unhelpful ways,
and by unhelpful, I mean, you start to overestimate danger in all kinds
of situations, and so how can we help you with your
danger probability meter?
Another unhelpful way of thinking could be when a person is left with guilt.
"If only I had done this or if only I had done that."
The ability to look at that guilt, to understand that guilt from a
post-traumatic view and get what that's about, that can be also a very
important common component of treatment.
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Lt. Col. Philip Holcombe, PhD, Lt. Col. Philip Holcombe is an Army psychologist who serves as the chief of Clinical Recommendations at the Deployment Health Clinical Center at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.
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