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Exposure therapy for PTSD

Exposure therapy has been used to treat PTSD symptoms associated with combat, sexual assault, and motor vehicle accidents. Exposure therapy has been applied in treating adults, adolescents, and children who experienced traumatic events. For example, four controlled clinical trials of the efficacy of exposure therapy for combat-related PTSD in Vietnam veterans reported generally positive findings. Two randomly controlled studies of exposure therapy for female sexual assault survivors also found that exposure therapy is efficacious in reducing PTSD symptoms. Resick and Schnicke  reported improvements in the PTSD symptoms of rape survivors using a particular form of CBT—cognitive processing therapy. The authors state that this treatment includes education about PTSD symptoms, exposure, and cognitive therapy. Instead of using in vivo imagery, the exposure component involved having participants write and read a detailed account of the rape. Safety, trust, power, esteem, and intimacy were beliefs addressed in cognitive therapy. Treatment was administered in a group format during 12 weekly sessions and was compared to a waiting-list control.

Treatment subjects improved significantly from pretreatment to posttreatment in depression and PTSD measures and maintained these gains at the six-month follow-up. The waitinglist group did not significantly improve.

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