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What is CPT and how can it help treat trauma?

CPT stands for Cognitive Processing Therapy. CPT is a cognitive behavioral therapy that is utilized to treat Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Standard treatment for PTSD using CPT is approximately 12 sessions long. Sessions are an hour long and can be completed in individual or group therapy sessions. For best results, sessions are completed on a weekly basis or sometimes twice a week. 


When something traumatic happens, we can get stuck and are unable to complete the natural recovery process. Symptoms of PTSD are normal initially after a traumatic event occurs, but over time can become problematic if recovery is interrupted. Symptoms of PTSD can include intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and physiological arousal. As symptoms of trauma persist, the need to avoid such uncomfortable symptoms increases. Utilizing avoidance behaviors impedes our ability to naturally process the trauma, which then keeps us stuck in the trauma. 


Some treatments of trauma focus on retelling the events of the trauma over and over until the client is desensitized. CPT differs because it focuses on what meaning we have made of the trauma and why we believe it happened. It focuses on how the trauma has impacted the client’s view on themselves, others, and the world. When we avoid our feelings and beliefs, they remain unchallenged. By identifying our beliefs related to the trauma, we have the opportunity to challenge them and see the trauma through a different lens. This new lens often allows us to complete natural recovery through processing the emotions. 


What to expect from a session of CPT: 


Treatment begins with education regarding PTSD symptoms, avoidance, and what keeps us stuck. The second session involves a discussion around what the client thinks about in relation to the trauma and how it has impacted their life. Each session follows a standardized format utilizing worksheets to challenge where the client is stuck. 


Worksheets and homework are an important and crucial part of CPT treatment for PTSD. Therapy sessions only account for a very small amount of time in a week. If this was the only time of the week that we challenged our thoughts, recovery would be much more difficult. Additionally, worksheets allow the client to minimize avoidance behaviors, which allow symptoms to persist. Worksheets and homework allows the effects of therapy to continue long after you have left your session. 

If you have any additional questions about CPT or are interested in trauma therapy, reach out to Living Well Counselling Services




Shannon Baustad, MC, is experienced in many areas such as anxiety, depression, and relationships, plus many more. For more information on Shannon and her work, click here to link to her full bio page.