Traumatic events are common, and almost everyone will be subjected to or witness trauma at some point in their life. On the other hand, military personnel who have been exposed to battle are at the highest risk of experiencing significant trauma, which can result in the development of the mental health condition, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Following active duty, PTSD can affect a veteran’s ability to return to their normal life and activities. Trauma might manifest as anger, avoidance, anxiety, or fear. Even active duty military members may develop PTSD, which renders them unable to function normally. Addressing the symptoms of PTSD can be challenging, but the right therapy can help improve a person’s quality of life and allow them to live a happy, fulfilled life.

Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a form of PTSD treatment, similar to cognitive behavioral treatment. CPT for PTSD can help a person confront their ideas and feelings regarding trauma in order to decrease its influence on their life.


Most experts define CPT therapy as a 12 session treatment approach that assists patients in processing their ideas and feelings in the aftermath of a traumatic incident.

CPT follows a set of clear phases, with each session having a distinct goal. The first CPT sessions, for example, focus on talking about the experience itself, whereas later sessions focus on questioning and processing thinking and feelings about the trauma.

Cognitive processing therapy assists in addressing the feelings associated with a trauma, such as fear, humiliation, or rage. CPT attempts to assist a person in understanding how they have processed a traumatic experience and strives to address dysfunctional thinking.


CPT was first designed for women who had been sexually assaulted. Dr. Patricia Resick, who created cognitive processing therapy in the late 1980s, has tested it for different forms of trauma. Dr. Resick went on to study the efficacy of CPT and has subsequently produced specialized guides for therapists on the subject.

CPT is based on psychological beliefs about how the brain processes trauma. Like most PTSD therapies, it addresses the brain’s fear response, which is commonly active in PTSD. There is now a cognitive processing manual designed exclusively for veterans and military members, and CPT for PTSD has been tested and investigated in groups with differing forms of trauma, histories, and educational levels.


Cognitive processing therapy is based on the concept that what one thinks affects their perceptions of themselves. In times of trauma, our thoughts change, and the goal of CPT is to change these unhealthy and negative thoughts into positive and healthy ones. The CPT treatment approach is led by a guidebook that comprises a total of 12 sessions. These sessions normally run for 60–90 minutes and are held once or twice a week.

CPT sessions are divided into three stages:


During this stage, the patient learns about their thoughts, feelings, and PTSD in general. The patient discovers the connection between trauma-related thoughts and feelings and their symptoms. This stage also helps clients recognize problematic ideas that may contribute to their symptoms.


This step includes a written trauma account, detailing the traumatic events as well as any negative emotions they felt as a result. In the next session, a patient reads their trauma discussion for the therapist, which helps them confront the feelings they may otherwise avoid facing. The therapist then employs questioning strategies to assist the individual suffering from PTSD in examining how they think about the event, which can help reveal harmful ideas about the incident, such as self-blame.


Ongoing questioning skills are utilized to evaluate ideas and beliefs about trauma. The therapist and patient collaborate to transform ideas about trust, safety, and other notions that are frequently influenced by trauma. This stage prepares a patient to employ these abilities and techniques when therapy is over.


CPT approaches are intended to provide exposure to traumatic situations while also changing cognitive processes associated with these experiences. CPT sessions include a variety of tactics and strategies. Some of the methods can be difficult for people living with PTSD in the short term, but they have been shown to be successful in alleviating the symptoms of PTSD.

Some of the tactics that might be expected during a CPT for PTSD session are as follows:

• Detailing the trauma or traumatic event in writing

• To lessen avoidance behaviors, the patient will read and recite the specifics of the traumatic event to a group or to their therapist

• Having a therapist ask questions about the event and the patient’s opinions about it

• Recognizing harmful thoughts, such as self-blame or a lack of trust

During CPT, the Psyclarity Health CPT therapist will help the patient learn to recognize and modify ideas that are detrimental to their healing and recovery.


CPT aims to alter ideas, feelings, and trauma processing. CPT seeks to help lessen PTSD symptoms and enhance the patient’s quality of life. CPT is an effective treatment used to treat symptoms related to a traumatic event. These include, but are not limited to:

• Child abuse, sexual abuse, or domestic violence

• Natural disasters

• War or combat

• Motor vehicle accidents

• Robbery

• Assault

• Seeing someone die

• Having an experience where the person feared for their life

• Hearing about a traumatic event a loved one has experienced

The goal of CPT for PTSD is to nurture a therapeutic process known as “cognitive restructuring.” Cognitive restructuring is learning to recognize, confront, and replace harmful thoughts and beliefs regarding the trauma or traumatic events. These abilities are especially useful during the first phase of therapy, but can also be used on a continuing basis.

CPT helps a person with PTSD reinterpret or comprehend their experiences by changing how they think and feel about the traumatic event.


The efficacy of CPT has been widely studied, and it has been demonstrated to be useful in lessening the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. The American Psychiatric Association strongly recommends cognitive processing therapy for the PTSD treatment. According to research, military veterans who underwent cognitive processing treatment had considerable improvement in their PTSD symptoms when compared to soldiers who received community counseling services.

Significant improvements were also seen in disorders commonly associated with PTSD, such as anxiety, anger, depression, and relationship problems.


Getting help for PTSD is the first step toward taking back control of your life. At Psyclarity Health centers, our highly qualified therapists are able to work with patients who need to recover from trauma and PTSD.

If you or a loved one is struggling with trauma or PTSD, we are here to help. Get in touch with us today to get mental health treatment.