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CBT for PTSD: How Does It Work?

CBT for PTSD: How Does It Work?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that develops after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. PTSD can cause flashbacks, avoidance of trauma reminders, and negative changes in beliefs, feelings, emotions, and physical reactions.

PTSD can erode your quality of life — but your symptoms don’t have to be permanent. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy effective for PTSD and other mental health conditions.

CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all interconnected and that we can manage and reduce our emotional distress by changing our thoughts and behaviors. At Psychology Beverly Hills, our team of mental health professionals specializes in treating PTSD with CBT. Here’s how it works.

The elements of CBT for PTSD

CBT can be an effective treatment for PTSD because it helps people identify and challenge unhealthy thoughts and beliefs about their trauma and gives them tools to develop coping strategies for managing the symptoms of PTSD.

Cognitive restructuring

The foundation of CBT is cognitive restructuring, an evidence-based psychotherapy method that teaches you how to identify and challenge your unhealthy or inaccurate thoughts.

For PTSD, we help you identify your thoughts and beliefs about the traumatic event. We help you process those thoughts and the emotions that come with them, then help you learn how to replace them with more realistic, healthier balanced thoughts.

Exposure therapy

One of the key components of CBT for PTSD is exposure therapy. Exposure therapy involves exposing you to the trauma narrative, situations that trigger your symptoms, and/or reminders of the trauma in a controlled way.

We may ask you to describe the event in detail or work with you in real-life situations that trigger your symptoms. Exposure therapy teaches you to cope with and manage your symptoms rather than avoid them. 

Relaxation & stress management training

Your CBT sessions may also involve relaxation training, another strategy to treat the symptoms of PTSD. In relaxation training, your therapist teaches you how to manage your emotional and physical reactions toward the traumatic event.

We recommend relaxation methods like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation. These methods can also help you manage or cope with stress. 


In psychoeducation, your therapist teaches you about how trauma can affect people. Learning about PTSD, why it happens, and how it can be treated can help you become better at managing it effectively.

What to expect with CBT for PTSD

Therapy is a highly personal process. When you start CBT for PTSD, your therapist guides you through an assessment and works with you to determine which therapeutic strategies best meet your individual needs.

We often recommend weekly sessions with one of our therapists who’s trained in PTSD. You may get homework assignments between sessions to practice the skills you’re learning in your sessions.

The length of treatment will vary depending on your needs and progress, but most people with PTSD can expect to receive treatment for several months.

Trauma doesn’t have to cast a permanent shadow over your life. If you think you have symptoms of PTSD, book an appointment with the mental health professionals at Psychology Beverly Hills to start feeling better.

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