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5 Highly Effective Treatments for PTSD

Updated: Jan 30

Learn the top-recommended therapies for PTSD, plus how and why they work.

I haven’t come across a mental health condition that has more myth and misunderstanding around it than post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Here are some common things I hear:

  • Myth: PTSD takes years to treat

  • Myth: Only veterans get PTSD

  • Myth: All trauma leads to PTSD

  • Myth: Avoiding trauma triggers helps with PTSD

  • Myth: PTSD is the same as having trauma

  • Myth: PTSD never completely goes away

  • Myth: PTSD cannot be treated by talk (cognitive) therapy

In actuality, there are multiple psychotherapy treatments shown to be effective for PTSD. In many cases, they can completely eliminate symptoms of the disorder. While they don’t work for everyone, many therapies can help people move on from PTSD symptoms and get back to regular life.

Looking for some resources to help with treating PTSD? Skip ahead to our mental health downloads, consistent with effective therapies for PTSD.

This infographic includes worksheet examples on CBT for anxiety and PTSD .

Article Highlights

What is PTSD?

Research-Based Therapies

  1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

  2. Cognitive processing therapy (CPT)

  3. Prolonged exposure therapy (PE)

  4. Trauma-focused CBT (TF-CBT)

  5. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

Support for PTSD

What is PTSD, specifically?

I don’t want to wander too far off-topic, but understanding PTSD treatments requires understanding the condition itself. As you might have caught onto from the list of myths, PTSD is not the same as having trauma. And it’s not the only possible negative result of trauma.

When someone goes through a trauma, they’re likely to be shaken up a bit. The simplest way to understand this is to think of a fender-bender car accident. Even if no one got hurt, you’re likely to feel a bit shaken up for a few days to a week or so.

You might feel a bit on edge and jumpy, not want to ride in a car, or have a hard time understanding what happened. This is normal. Your nervous system is trying to figure out if the danger is ongoing or if you’re back in a safe place.

That feeling will likely go away fairly quickly. For more serious traumas, it may take up to a few weeks to feel better. But within a fairly short amount of time, your day to day life will go back to normal.

It doesn’t mean that you’re not still affected by the trauma, but your nervous system is no longer on high alert for danger. For example, you might still feel sad or hurt by what happened, but you won’t be watching your back every day or having frequent nightmares.