A young man is in virtual CBT for PTSD to help with trauma symptoms.

CBT for PTSD Can Help With Trauma Symptoms

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people with PTSD develop healthy coping strategies and process their traumatic experiences.


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How CBT treats PTSD

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a highly effective method for treating people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Through CBT, people with PTSD can learn to recognize and challenge negative thought patterns and beliefs that contribute to their PTSD symptoms. By working with a therapist, trauma survivors can develop healthier coping strategies and learn to process their traumatic experiences in a more constructive way. Additionally, CBT as trauma therapy can help people manage their anxiety and depression symptoms that often accompany PTSD, ultimately improving their overall quality of life.

Skills taught in CBT for PTSD

Skills taught in CBT for PTSD include:

Gradual exposure

This skill teaches trauma survivors how to gradually approach and confront their traumatic memories or triggers in a safe and controlled manner. This skill helps to reduce the intensity of their emotional responses and desensitize them to the trauma.

Cognitive restructuring

Cognitive restructuring involves learning how to identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs related to the trauma. This skill enables them to develop a more balanced and realistic perspective on the traumatic event, reducing the impact of intrusive negative thoughts and feelings.

Stress management

This CBT intervention involves learning various relaxation techniques and coping strategies to manage symptoms of hyperarousal and anxiety. This skill helps them to regulate their emotions and physical responses in triggering situations or when thinking of the traumatic event.

Social skills training

Social skills training involves improving interpersonal and communication skills to enhance people’s relationships and support networks. This skill can help them rebuild social connections and feel more connected to others.


This CBT intervention involves learning how to identify and address practical problems or obstacles related to people’s PTSD symptoms. This skill empowers them to take proactive steps toward improving their circumstances and creating a sense of control over their lives.

Assertiveness training

Through assertiveness training, people will be taught how to express their needs and boundaries assertively in various situations. This skill can help people in PTSD treatment feel more confident and capable of protecting themselves from potential triggers or stressors.

Thought recording

Thought recording involves recording people’s thoughts, emotions, and reactions to specific triggers or situations. This skill provides valuable insight into their cognitive patterns and helps track progress over time.

Behavioral activation

In behavioral activation, people will learn how to engage in enjoyable and meaningful activities despite their PTSD symptoms. This skill aims to increase positive experiences and reinforce a sense of mastery and pleasure in their daily lives.

Benefits of CBT for PTSD

Research has shown that people who have undergone CBT for PTSD can experience significant long-term benefits. By addressing and challenging negative thought patterns and behaviors through talking therapy, people can learn to manage their symptoms more effectively and have fewer relapses. CBT also helps people develop healthy coping mechanisms and improve their overall mental well-being, leading to a better quality of life in the long run.

How quickly does CBT work for PTSD? 

Research has shown that CBT can be effective in treating PTSD in many people. Typically, a person can start to see improvements in their symptoms within several months of beginning CBT therapy. This type of therapy focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to PTSD symptoms and can often be a quicker and more effective treatment option than other forms of therapy.

How is medication used to treat PTSD?

Medication is often used to treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to help manage symptoms like anxiety and depression. Other medications may be used to address nightmares and sleep disturbance. PTSD patients may also be given anti-anxiety medications to help with short-term relief from symptoms. Additionally, for people with PTSD who experience severe mood swings or disassociation, atypical antipsychotics can be prescribed to manage symptoms. In the treatment of complex PTSD, medication is often used to manage specific symptoms such as anxiety, depression, or sleep disturbances, complementing therapeutic approaches that address the trauma’s psychological aspects. Overall, medication can be a crucial part of managing PTSD symptoms and improving the quality of life for people affected by the disorder.

Other types of treatment for PTSD

In addition to CBT and medication, here are some other kinds of treatment that may help people with PTSD:

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a type of PTSD treatment that involves a person recalling distressing events while the therapist directs their eye movements, which helps to process a trauma memory and alleviate their emotional impact.

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing a person to the traumatic memory or situation in a safe and controlled environment, allowing them to confront and process their fear and anxiety related to the traumatic experience. Prolonged exposure therapy is a specific type of exposure therapy that entails extended and repeated exposure to traumatic memories or cues, helping people gradually reduce their emotional response and gain control over their fear.

Equine therapy

This psychological treatment involves interacting with and caring for horses, which can help people with PTSD build confidence, trust, and emotional regulation skills, as well as provide a sense of connection and support.

Group therapy

This approach involves a person participating in a supportive and understanding group setting, where they can share their experiences, learn coping strategies, and receive validation and encouragement from others who have also experienced trauma.

Yoga and mindfulness

These mind-body practices focus on breathing, movement, and meditation, which can help a person with PTSD manage their symptoms by promoting relaxation, reducing stress, and increasing self-awareness and present-moment focus. Additionally, for people with PTSD who also experience chronic pain, these practices can offer techniques for managing pain, further enhancing their overall well-being and quality of life.


Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are used to treat PTSD when a person needs more structured and intensive care than traditional outpatient therapy. It is often recommended for people who are experiencing severe PTSD symptoms but do not require inpatient treatment. IOP typically involves a combination of therapy, medication management, and support groups to address the person’s symptoms and help them learn coping skills. This type of treatment allows the person to receive the support they need for their PTSD diagnosis while still maintaining some level of independence and normalcy in their daily life.

Treatment for PTSD at Charlie Health 

If a young person in your life is struggling with PTSD, Charlie Health is here to help. Charlie Health offers a virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) that provides more than once-weekly mental health treatment for young people and families dealing with complex mental health conditions, including PTSD. Our expert clinicians incorporate cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) into individual counseling, family therapy, and group sessions. With this kind of holistic treatment, managing PTSD is possible. Fill out the form below or give us a call to start healing today. 

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