PTSD: National Center for PTSD
Understanding PTSD Treatment
Understanding PTSD Treatment
- Treatment Basics
PTSD treatment works. People who have gone through trauma can learn to feel safe in the world and cope with stress. This section gives basic information about how to get started with treatment and signs of good care.
Talk therapy--or psychotherapy--includes talking to a mental health care provider (like a psychologist, counselor or psychiatrist) to treat PTSD.
Trauma-focused talk therapy
Evidence shows trauma-focused psychotherapies are the most effective treatments for PTSD. "Trauma-focused" means you will focus specifically on the memory of the traumatic event or its meaning in therapy. There are different kinds of trauma-focused psychotherapy, but those listed below have the most research support:
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
CPT teaches you how reframe negative thoughts about the trauma.
- Prolonged Exposure (PE)
PE teaches you how to gain control by facing your negative feelings and doing some of the things you have avoided since your trauma.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for PTSD
EMDR helps you process and make sense of your trauma while paying attention to a back-and-forth movement or sound (like a finger waving side to side, a light or a tone).
- Written Exposure Therapy (WET)
WET involves writing about your trauma during sessions and discussing your reaction to the writing assignments with your provider.
Suggested Talk Therapies: Treatments With Some Research Support
Some psychotherapies do not focus on the traumatic event but do help you process your reactions to the trauma and manage symptoms related to PTSD. The research behind these treatments is not as strong as the research supporting trauma-focused psychotherapies (listed above). However, these psychotherapies may be a good option if you are not interested in trauma-focused psychotherapy, or if it is not available:
- Stress Inoculation Training (SIT)
Teaches skills and techniques to manage stress and reduce anxiety.
- Present-Centered Therapy (PCT)
Focuses on current life problems that are related to PTSD.
Certain medications can be used to treat PTSD symptoms. Learn more about which medications are most effective for PTSD and which medications are not recommended.
- Medications for PTSD
Medications that have been shown to be helpful in treating PTSD symptoms are some of the same medications also used for symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Benzodiazepines and PTSD
Some medications, including benzodiazepines (or "benzos"), are not recommended for PTSD. Benzodiazepines are medications given by a doctor to improve anxiety and sleep. They do not help with PTSD symptoms and can have serious side effects over time.
Which PTSD Treatment Is Best for You?
PTSD Treatment Decision Aid: Learn about effective treatment options. You can read about different treatments, hear advice from people who have been through these treatments, and watch videos of providers explaining how the treatments work. You can also build a chart to compare the treatments you like the most and print a personalized summary that lists your symptoms, treatment preferences, and questions to share with your provider.