Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Dr. Dorian provides trauma-related services to victims of assaults, abuse, and disasters; witnesses to critical/traumatic incidents; combat veterans and emergency services personnel; and others who are suffering from post-traumatic stress.
After a traumatic event, many individuals experience distress and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This distress may be highest when dealing with memories, thoughts, feelings, and situations that are related to the trauma. Exposure therapy is a type of therapy that helps you decrease distress about your trauma. This therapy works by helping you approach trauma-related thoughts, feelings, and situations that you have been avoiding due to the distress they cause. Repeated exposure to these thoughts, feelings, and situations helps reduce the power they have to cause distress.
Prolonged Exposure (PE) is one type of exposure therapy that works for many people who have experienced trauma. It has four main parts:
- Education. PE starts with education about the treatment. Learning about common trauma reactions and PTSD allows you to better understand your symptoms. It also helps you understand the goals of the treatment. This education provides the basis for the next sessions.
- Breathing. Breathing retraining is a skill that helps you relax. When people become anxious or scared, their breathing often changes. Learning how to control your breathing can help in the short-term to manage immediate distress.
- Real world practice. Exposure practice with real-world situations (known as “in vivo exposure”) allows you to practice approaching situations that are safe but which you may have been avoiding because they are related to the trauma. An example of avoidance after a traumatic event might be a combat veteran who avoids driving ever since he witnessed a roadside bombing while deployed. In the same way, a sexual trauma survivor may avoid getting emotionally or physically close to others. Real world practice helps your trauma-related distress to lessen over time, and allows you to gain more control over your life.
- Talking through the trauma. Talking about your trauma memory (called “imaginal exposure”) is a highly effective technique whereby clients are asked to imagine feared images or situations and are then guided to talk through the trauma memory with a therapist. Talking through the trauma will help you get more control of your thoughts and feelings about it. Talking through the trauma helps you make sense of what happened and have fewer negative thoughts about the trauma. You will learn that you do not have to be afraid of your memories.