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A recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) exposed much of the studies for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as self-serving and biased.  The report concluded that exposure-based therapy and cognitive processing therapy were the only proven treatments that were effective for PTSD. The report also concluded that pharmacotherapy requires additional research to prove its effectiveness.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) agrees with the IOM findings that exposure-based therapies are effective treatments for PTSD. Prolonged exposure therapy utilizes techniques to promote confrontation with feared objects, situations, memories, and images. It involves use of psycho-education, breathing retraining, prolonged exposure to the memory of the trauma through imaginary reliving, and repeated exposure to safe situations being avoided because of traumatic fear.

Cognitive process therapy involves psycho-education; written exposure in which patients write about the impact of their traumatic experience in relation to themselves and to others, then interpret those traumatic events; challenging the patient’s interpretations of the traumatic events with the goal of helping them restructure their beliefs that have become disruptive to their lives.

About a year ago the VA developed training for its mental health professionals in the use of exposure-based therapies, starting with cognitive processing therapy and now includes prolonged exposure therapy.