This psychological treatment helps to change painful feelings and thoughts. In particular, the treatment is aimed at memories, thoughts and feelings about the traumatic event.
How long does the treatment take?
The treatment consists of 16 sessions. Each session lasts 45 minutes to an hour. Preferably sessions are scheduled once a week. Your therapist is a psychologist or psychiatrist (in training).
What happens during the treatment?
Each session in this treatment has a specific purpose. Below we describe the aims and content of the sessions. More or less time per treatment phase may be needed, therefore you may consider it as a guideline, not a prescription.
In the first session you will get information about PTSD, and the content of the treatment. Also you will be asked to tell briefly about your traumatic event. Take your partner along to this first session. When you do not have a partner or when you would rather bring someone else, you may do so, of course. The intention is to bring someone from whom you feel support.
Session 2 to 6
In these sessions your therapist encourages you to think about the trauma and to remind it. Relaxation exercises, in which you in turn contract and relax your muscles, will help you to concentrate. Then you will start telling about the traumatic event as if it is happening right now. You may bring an object which reminds you of the event to the session as this will help to relive the event. Examples of objects include photos, clothes, or legal statements. Your therapist will help you with the painful emotions and memories. Most people feel reluctant to tell about their experiences, but afterwards they find that this component is most important for them in the process.
As a homework assignment you will start writing a letter. This letter is dedicated to a person or organization that you hold responsible for the traumatic event or its consequences. The letter is meant to express your anger, since feeling annoyed or angry are unpleasant symptoms of PTSD. The letter is not meant to be posted. Do not bother to attend to language or grammar as this will keep you away from the purpose. We advise to hand-write the letter instead.
Traumatic events frequently involve sorrow and grief over lost lives of loved ones, friends or colleagues. Letter-writing may also be used as a way to say goodbye to them.
Halfway you will evaluate results of the treatment with your therapist and partner. Together you will look at improvements so far and problems you may still face. Consequently the treatment can be adjusted.
Session 8 to 15
Meaning and integration
When you have completely told all the details and painful emotions of the trauma, the PTSD symptoms will decrease significantly. However, the experience of a traumatic event makes a deep impression. Therefore, the following sessions deal with what it has done with you, and what you have learned from it. How has it changed your ideas and thoughts about yourself and the world? When necessary, special attention will be given to resuming work.
Relapse prevention plan
In this last session you will look back on the therapy to see what you have learned and how you can keep on using this in the future.
The closure of the therapy deserves special attention. The trauma has dictated your life for a long time. Your PTSD symptoms are in the past now. That means that the awful period in your life has come to an end. Together with your partner, you will give a special and personal touch to the farewell of this awkward period and the celebration of better times to come. Your therapist encourages you to do so, and helps you with your plans.