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How does prolonged exposure therapy work for PTSD?

Prolonged exposure therapy helps PTSD patients confront traumatic memories in a safe environment to reduce symptoms.

Prolonged exposure therapy is a type of cognitive-behavioural therapy used to treat PTSD. The therapy involves patients retelling their traumatic experience(s) in a safe and controlled environment, allowing them to confront their fears and desensitise to the traumatic memories. Patients are asked to describe their traumatic event in detail repeatedly, either verbally or in writing. This process helps patients to process their traumatic memories and change their negative thoughts and emotions associated with the event.

The therapy also involves confronting feared situations that are associated with the traumatic event. For example, if a patient was involved in a car accident, they may be asked to drive again. This exposure helps patients to realise that they can face feared situations without experiencing a traumatic response.

Prolonged exposure therapy typically involves 8-15 sessions, each lasting 60-90 minutes. The therapy is usually conducted once per week. Patients are also given homework to complete between sessions, such as listening to recordings of their traumatic experience.

Research has shown that prolonged exposure therapy is an effective treatment for PTSD. Patients who undergo this therapy have shown significant improvements in their PTSD symptoms, including reduced anxiety and depression, and an improved quality of life.

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