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Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

What Is Cognitive Processing Therapy?

Cognitive Processing Therapy or CPT is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, developed specifically to treat PTSD.

It is based on Cognitive Theory, which says that recovery from a traumatic event will depend largely on how you make meaning of that event--why it happened, what it says about the world, and what it says about you.

 

PTSD Stuck Points

Stuck points are negative beliefs that keep survivors in the fear, anger, shame, guilt, avoidance, and intrusive symptoms of PTSD.

A traumatic event (or series of events) can shatter a person’s understanding of the world and create (or reinforce) unhealthy and extreme beliefs about self and others.

Examples of stuck points:

  • “Danger is everywhere”
  • “I can’t protect myself or my loved ones”
  • “No one can be trusted”
  • “I’m weak/going crazy”
  •  “It was my fault”

CPT equips patients with the skills to identify their stuck points and develop more accurate and balanced beliefs to replace them. As clients internalize this new cognitive process and their more adaptive beliefs, they get “unstuck” from trauma, and their symptoms decline.

 

Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD

CPT is a structured therapy with a standard course of around 12 sessions. Patients complete a sequence of worksheets that build on one another to help them identify, re-examine and find alternatives to their stuck points. This process occurs both in session and out, as clients are required to complete worksheets between sessions in order to master their new cognitive skills. CPT may also include a written account of the primary trauma, depending on the patient’s preference and therapist’s recommendation.

CPT has been demonstrated effective by many high-quality research studies, and it is recognized by the Departments of Defense and Veteran Affairs, as well as other authoritative professional organizations, as a first-line intervention and best practice for treating PTSD.

National Center for PTSD’s video for CPT