Prolonged Exposure (PE) is rooted in the Emotional Processing Theory of PTSD, which emphasizes that relief from PTSD symptoms must come from processing of the traumatic event. PE includes education about post-traumatic stress, breathing re-training, real life exposures, and repeated imaginal exposure to trauma memories. The latter two components are critical because 20+ years of research-based evidence shows that they reduce distress in clients, quickly (Foa, Hembree, & Rothbaum, 2007).
PE is all about “re-learning” that memories of your trauma and situations or cues that remind you of your trauma are not the same as the trauma itself and thus, are not unsafe. Some worry that if they confront their anxiety, they will “lose control.” PE has shown that formal exposure in a therapeutic context helps these worries go away, too. Many have reclaimed their lives from PTSD through doing PE. Main goals are to reduce avoidance, re-learn that the world is not inherently dangerous, and tell the difference between the past and the present.
This treatment for post-traumatic stress is highly compatible with other cognitive-behavioral based treatments, such as DBT. At Upaya, we are happy to offer PE as an option for clients on its own or in conjunction with participation in our DBT program, depending on clients’ specific needs.