Prolonged Exposure (PE) is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that helps individuals to gradually approach trauma-related memories, emotions and situations. It is an evidence-based treatment commonly used to relive the suffering of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
I have been trained in PE by Dr. Edna Foa, the treatment developer, at the University of Pennsylvania. This form of therapy begins with teaching a trauma survivor breathing techniques to regulate intense reactions in the body and the mind. Education is offered about common reactions to trauma. Treatment focuses on revisiting the trauma in imagination or by actually visiting locations associated with the trauma. Gradually, the intense emotional and physical reactions to the traumatic event fade. PE is strongly recommended as a treatment for PTSD.
Why is PE the preferred treatment for PTSD? Trauma occurs when a person experiences or witnesses an event that involves actual or threatened death or injury or a threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others. Under such circumstances, a person will typically experience intense fear, helplessness or horror. While many people prefer to avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma, that avoidance may eventually evolve into PTSD.
Those with PTSD may persistently re-experience the event through memories, nightmares and reliving the event in the form of flashbacks. This creates intense emotional and physical distress, leading to continued avoidance of trauma-related thoughts, emotions and situations. They may also feel emotionally numb, detached from other people and experience diminished interest in activities. By facing what has been avoided through treatment with PE, a person can decrease symptoms of PTSD by actively learning that the trauma-related memories and cues are not dangerous and do not need to be avoided.
If you are interested in learning more about Prolonged Exposure, please contact me.