Therapy for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

NYU Langone psychologists and psychiatrists offer several forms of therapy for people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Some types of therapy target the symptoms, whereas others focus on improving social, family, or job-related problems.

With the help of an NYU Langone therapist, a person can change how he or she reacts to stressful memories.


During psychotherapy, or talk therapy, you speak with a mental health professional to learn how to cope with a mental illness. Psychotherapy can occur one-on-one or in a group.

Talk therapy for PTSD usually involves meeting with a trained therapist for 1 hour weekly for 8 to 12 weeks. However, it may last longer, depending on the person and the trauma he or she experienced.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a type of psychotherapy aimed at easing PTSD symptoms by changing the way a person thinks and reacts to difficult situations. Our therapists have many years of experience using CBT to treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

This type of therapy features a problem-focused approach, meaning the goal of therapy is to teach people with PTSD a variety of coping skills to help them manage difficult situations. CBT has two main components: the cognitive component, which helps people change how they think about a difficult situation; and the behavioral component, which helps people change how they react to the situation.

CBT also involves educating people about PTSD. Therapists explain how the condition affects you and your family or loved ones. They also discuss the effects of drug and alcohol abuse, which are common among people with PTSD.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is typically given once a week over the course of 12 to 16 weeks, or longer for people with more severe symptoms.

Doctors may recommend CBT as a treatment on its own or in conjunction with medication. Our doctors work with you to develop a treatment plan that meets your needs and make adjustments as necessary to ensure that your PTSD symptoms are effectively controlled.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy helps people face and control their fears. It involves gradually recalling the traumatic event repeatedly until the memories are no longer upsetting. A therapist can help a person with PTSD approach trauma-related situations and memories at a comfortable pace.

During exposure therapy, a person is slowly and safely exposed to the trauma they experienced by using mental imagery, writing about it, or visiting the place where the event happened. For example, a therapist may ask you to record yourself talking about the traumatic event and then play the recording at home, writing down your thoughts and feelings about the event on a daily basis. Over time, the memories become less intense.

Cognitive Processing Therapy

Cognitive processing therapy helps a person increase his or her understanding of unhelpful thinking patterns and learn new, healthier ways of viewing a situation.

During cognitive processing therapy, the therapist educates the person about PTSD, explaining the nature of his or her symptoms and how traumatic events have affected his or her life. People participating in this type of therapy learn about connections between trauma-related thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

NYU Langone specialists ask a person to remember the traumatic event and experience the emotions associated with it. However, this form of therapy does not use vivid mental reconstruction of the event, as exposure therapy does.

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