Jamie is a sexual assault survivor and has been a Primar ...
Posted Oct 07 2009 11:57am
Jamie is a sexual assault survivor and has been a Primary Care Paramedic for almost 4 years. We met online and I was excited for her to share her knowledge about Cognitive Processing Therapy. As a survivor and professional Jamie has a great perspective of both sides of the spectrum.
1. What is CPT?
CPT is Cognitive Processing Therapy. It is relatively rare to find a therapist who is familiar with it as it seems to be a newer technique used for the treatment of PTSD. It combines the traditional cognitive and exposure therapies into a power-house of sorts.
2. What is the philosophy behind CPT?
With the combination of CBT and exposure therapy it offers the best of those two therapies. It helps to identify “stuck points” or points where your beliefs of the world before and after trauma seem to clash. And once those stuck points are identified, it allows you to readjust and develop new beliefs.
3. What makes it work?
I found the combination of both exposure to the incidents as well as picking apart the false truths that I had been holding on to was extremely effective. It is extremely draining but worth it.
4. What made you decide to try CPT?
I tried most of the more traditional approaches to treating PTSD and had no success. I was still crashing hard, to a point where I was self-injuring just to feel something since my entire emotional self was completely shut down. Finally, I stumbled across a psychologist who specialized in the treatment of PTSD in military and emergency personel. I discussed the options with her and she explained the benefits of CPT over those of EMDR or CBT and I decided to give it a shot. The first appointment I had with her was the most relieving day of my life!
5. What’s the CPT process?
It is a 12 stage process that works initially on examining your own thought process and beliefs. Once you do that, you are able to identify the “stuck points” and then work on correcting those. Then the tough part comes in, which is writing all of the trauma out in detail. Once each trauma is written out in EXTREME detail, you have to keep reading it out loud both in and out of sessions. That is the exposure component to it. Usually more stuck points are found during this process. This is also the part that I found to be the hardest and most draining.
6. What were the results?
Just simply having a psychologist who actually understood PTSD was the first bit of relief I had. But once we really dug into the CPT, the real results started to show. I think it is similar to other treatments in that it is common to get worse before getting better, but once that passed, I found I was improving dramatically. People started to see “life” back in my eyes. I was able to sleep for more than 2 hours. I rediscovered a lot of my emotional side, which also allowed me to function normally back at work.
7. How long did it take before you saw results?
It was about 3 or 4 months of bi-weekly sessions before I noticed improvement. The people around me noticed improvement before that.
8. Have the results lasted? For how long?
The results for processing the initial traumas have lasted for about a year now. Because of my constant exposure to more trauma, there is always more being added to the pile. So it has been a constant battle of, “Okay, that is dealt with. Now on to the next one…” But the progress I saw just from processing the first couple of traumatic incidents has been more than enough encouragement to keep at it.
9. Why do you think CPT worked for you?
I think it is a really effective method. But you do have to be very dedicated to the treatment, as there is a large amount of homework to be done to take full advantage of it. So I think if a person is willing to put the time and effort into it that it deserves, then it is well worth doing.
10. If someone wanted to try CPT, what piece of advice would you give them?
I would give them the same piece of advice as with most treatments. You get out of it what you put into it. If you are willing to take a bit of pain, be dedicated to healing, and willing to put in the hours of work and energy into it, it will be extremely effective. And also not to give up when symptoms seem to be getting worse. Tough work brings big rewards.
‘Survivors Speak’ is a weekly feature written by or interviewing a survivor/PTSD experiencer about some positive aspect of healing. If you would like to participate in the series (anonymously if you prefer), please Contact Michele.