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  • Writer's pictureMaryland CEU Institute

Exploring the Benefits of Prolonged Exposure Therapy for PTSD

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

Become a PE Provider at our 4-Day Prolonged Exposure Therapy Training on Dec 5-8, 2023 Live via Zoom.

Chronic PTSD can be a particularly difficult condition for even the most seasoned clinician to treat, and without the proper tools or roadmap can leave the therapist feeling helpless and ineffective while the client continues suffering from this debilitating condition. While some people can recover from experiencing a traumatic event without lingering symptoms, some individuals develop a series of complicated symptoms that interfere with their daily life and may be indicative of a PTSD diagnosis. These symptoms may include things like intrusive memories or flashbacks, distressing dreams, avoidance of specific people, places or things that remind one of the trauma, irritability, or angry outbursts, being easily startled or frightened, trouble concentrating or sleeping and more.

The Basics of Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) is a highly effective evidence-based treatment that was developed to treat individuals suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder quickly (8 to 15 sessions) and effectively. PE was developed by Edna Foa, Director of the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety (CTSA) at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and continues to be regarded as one of the most effective treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PE therapy is based on the idea that avoidance of trauma-related thoughts, feelings, and situations can maintain PTSD symptoms. During PE therapy, clients are encouraged to confront and process trauma-related memories and emotions in a safe and supportive environment. The therapist works collaboratively with the client to identify specific trauma memories that the client is avoiding and then guides the client through in vivo exposure, which involves gradually approaching avoided situations or activities.

The Benefits of Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Research has shown that PE therapy is highly effective in reducing PTSD symptoms, with many clients experiencing significant improvement in their symptoms after completing treatment. In addition to reducing PTSD symptoms, PE therapy has also been shown to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety.

PE therapy can be used with a variety of populations, including veterans, survivors of sexual assault or childhood abuse, and individuals who have experienced natural disasters or accidents.

PE therapy helps clients to reduce avoidant behaviors associated with their PTSD symptoms. The VA provides this helpful video geared towards clients which gives a quick explanation of how PE can help those suffering from PTSD regain control of their lives:

Prolonged Exposure Therapy At-A-Glance

  • PE is a highly effective treatment for chronic PTSD and has been empirically validated with more than 20 years of research.

  • PE is based on cognitive-behavioral principals.

  • PE is a structured therapy with a comprehensive manual to assist the therapist in clinical application of each session. However, PE is also a flexible therapy that can be modified to fit the needs of individual clients

  • A treatment that produces clinically significant improvement in a short amount of time (8-15 sessions).

Additional Information on Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Getting Trained in Prolonged Exposure Therapy

If you're interested in incorporating PE therapy into your practice, there are many training opportunities available. Maryland CEU Institute is hosting a 4-Day PE training on Dec 5-8 online live via Zoom. Learn more >>

Please note: course presenter is a Certified PE Trainer, and the course satisfies training requirement for certification in PE Therapy. This intensive 4-day program lead by Certified Prolonged Exposure Trainer Stephanie Hamski will provide advanced training in Prolonged Exposure (PE) Therapy. The training is limited to only 24 participants. To learn more, please visit the PE Course Information Page.


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