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PTSD: National Center for PTSD

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Signs of Good PTSD Care


Signs of Good PTSD Care

Anyone who has PTSD deserves the best treatment available. Whether you are a Veteran or someone who experienced a non-military trauma—when you get care in VA, at a Vet Center, or in the community, you need to feel sure that it's working for you.

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“I would say, advocate for your own health care. Do the research. Ask questions.”

Leah Parady

U.S. Air Force

Signs of Quality PTSD Care

Below are 4 signs of quality care to guide you through treatment. You can refer to them if you are in treatment, especially if you are not happy with your progress or before you begin to work with a provider. The signs don't all have to be present for you to know the treatment you are getting is high-quality. But each will improve your chances of getting the care you deserve.

You're involved in your care

If you have ever been diagnosed with a medical condition, your provider probably told you the treatment options, and you worked together—perhaps with your family as well—to decide on the care that was right for you. Why would your PTSD care be any different?

In the best case, your provider talks with you about the effective treatments that are available for PTSD—both psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medication (drug therapy) options. Together you can then discuss what matters most to you, what your goals are, and which treatments match up with your likes and dislikes.

For example, if you are OK with the idea of talking about your trauma with a therapist, trauma-focused talk therapy would be a good fit. If you know that you'll forget to take medications on a steady basis, drug therapy might not be the best choice for you.

Once treatment starts, it is best to continue to be an active player in your care. Depending on the treatment, that could mean doing some work on your own between appointments or taking your medication as directed.

The PTSD Treatment Decision Aid is a great resource to learn about treatments and consider which is right for you.

You follow a proven treatment

There are a LOT of treatments available for PTSD, but evidence-based treatment has the best chance of working. Evidence-based treatments—both talk therapy and drug therapy— have been proven to work for many people in multiple high-quality research studies.

Among evidence-based treatments, 3 stand out, all of which are trauma-focused psychotherapy options. "Trauma-focused" means that the treatment centers on the memory of the trauma or its meaning. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Prolonged Exposure (PE) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) are the most effective PTSD treatments.

Medication—drug therapy—also treats the symptoms of PTSD well. The evidence-based medications that have been shown to work best are sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil) and venlafaxine (Effexor). If you choose medication to treat PTSD symptoms, you'll need to keep taking it for it to keep working.


"Evidence-based" Treatment: What does it mean?

Evidence-based treatments have been proven to work for people in high-quality research studies.

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There are other treatments available. If you are happy with a treatment not listed here, there is no need to change it. Sometimes people may choose a treatment that does not have a strong evidence base, and that treatment may be helpful.

Important note: There is one type of treatment that does not help with PTSD symptoms and can in fact be harmful—benzodiazepines—or "benzos." Some names you may have heard are: alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan) and temazepam (Restoril). Benzos are sometimes prescribed for short-term use to treat extreme anxiety, panic or sleep problems.

In the long-term, though, benzos can be addictive, cause other mental health problems, and make talk therapy less effective. If you are taking benzos for PTSD, work with your provider when making a plan to stop. There are other treatments that are safer and more effective.

Your progress is measured

Without checking your blood pressure or your weight, how would you know if your high blood pressure (hypertension) treatment or diet was working? It's the same with PTSD.

With the best PTSD treatment, your provider will monitor (or track) how you are doing. One way to do this is to have you fill out a brief questionnaire to measure your progress from time to time. Your provider will review the results with you and discuss what they mean for your treatment. If you are not seeing the results you want, you and your provider can talk about other treatment options to try.

If you get care in VA, learn about measurement-based care (MBC) being used to track Veterans' progress and make sure treatment is working. MBC uses patient-reported information to inform clinical care and ongoing treatment plans.

You are improving

We have treatment options that have been shown to work, but there's not just one treatment that works for everyone. That means you have a choice about which treatment is best for you. Just as your preferences matter, so does your sense of how well you are doing. Even if the other signs of good PTSD care aren't part of your experience, if you feel you are making progress, stick with your treatment. You can always consider more or different treatment at another time if you feel the progress stops or if you want to try another option.


Quality care for PTSD can take many forms. Seeking out these signs of good care in your PTSD treatment can keep you on the road to feeling better.

You May Also Be Interested In

PTSD Treatment Decision Aid: The choice is yours. Get Started.

PTSD Decision Aid

Compare options and make the best choice for PTSD treatment.

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Hear from Veterans who have turned their lives around with PTSD treatment.

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Understanding PTSD and PTSD Treatment (PDF)

A complete guide to PTSD basics.

PTSD Information Voice Mail: (802) 296-6300
Also see: VA Mental Health