PE’s use in treating PTSD
Prolonged Exposure therapy is used in the treatment of PTSD after a therapeutic relationship is established. The patient needs to trust the therapist in order for the PE to effectively reduce the client’s PTSD.
First, the therapist describes the treatment plan and develops an understanding of what the client’s traumatic experiences are. After the initial assessment, the therapist then will begin the PE. Prolonged Exposure therapy typically takes about three months to complete if the patient is attending weekly therapy sessions.
Each therapy session takes one to two hours for the PE to decrease the PTSD symptoms.
There are generally two types of exposures used in PE:
- Imaginal Exposure Imaginal Exposure is created when the patient describes traumatic events in their life as if it was currently happening to them. The therapist helps the patient process the emotions that come up throughout the imaginal exposure. These sessions are typically recorded so the patient can continue with the work on their own and listen to these sessions back to further reduce their PTSD symptoms.
- In Vivo Exposure In vivo exposure is done outside of the therapy sessions. The patient and therapist discuss what kinds of outside stimuli may be triggering the client’s PTSD and decide on a plan to slowly face their trauma. The client is encouraged to start out slow and plan each experience in a session with the therapist to be successful in the prolonged exposure.