What is Cognitive Processing Therapy?
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a 12-session weekly or twice-weekly psychotherapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), strongly recommended by both the American Psychological Association and the VA/DoD guidelines to treat trauma.
Who is CPT for?
CPT is effective for individuals experiencing PTSD as a result of many different kinds of traumatic experiences, such as:
- child abuse
- natural disasters
- sexual assault
How does CPT work and what can I expect from a session?
CPT works by helping us take a closer look at how traumatic experiences have affected our beliefs about ourselves, the world, and other people.
In a CPT session, your therapist will join you in exploring these beliefs through something called Socratic dialogue.
Socratic dialogue is a process of collaboratively questioning the beliefs about yourself and the world that have been affected or confirmed by a traumatic experience.
- “I cannot trust anyone.”
- “I am to blame for what happened.”
In the process of Socratic dialogue, you may examine many different things, including:
- the internal consistency of your beliefs about yourself or the world
- the evidence from your life that seems to support or negate these beliefs
- the implications of your beliefs
- your feelings about these implications, and more
Within the safety and structure of therapy, you can explore how these beliefs are interwoven with your emotions and behaviors and have been reinforcing each other, creating a cycle that blocks the natural process of recovering from trauma. That discovery is a powerful first step in breaking that cycle and healing from trauma.
How long is CPT?
In CPT, there are a set number of sessions (12), and each of them has a specific set of tasks and goals. There is homework after every session of CPT, except for the 12th session.
Versions of CPT
There are two versions of CPT (CPT and CPT-A). CPT-A involves writing an account of the trauma, while CPT does not. Both versions can be effective in healing trauma. By discussing with your therapist, you will choose a CPT version that will work best for you.
How will we know if CPT is helping heal the trauma?
We will be able to measure your progress in therapy in two ways:
- by you reporting on your experience to your therapist
- through a standardized assessment tool called the PCL-5, which helps us determine the severity of PTSD symptoms
Below are some helpful resources on CPT: