Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Exposure Therapy Can Prove Effective in Complex PTSD

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Exposure Therapy Can Prove Effective in Complex PTSD

Article excerpt

HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. -- Exposure therapy is a proven treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder, and it's even effective in complex cases, Barbara O. Rothbaum, Ph.D., said at the annual meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

Exposure works for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but "it has to be therapeutic exposure," said Dr. Rothbaum, director of the Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program at Emory University, Atlanta.

"I believe in my clinical bones that in PTSD these people are being haunted by stuff that happened to them in their past," she said. "What we need to do is to help them cope with it, cope with the memory, cope with what they did, cope with the meaning, cope with the affect, and cope with the pain. I really do believe that exposure is the way to do it."

Dr. Rothbaum offered several tips for treating complex PTSD patients with exposure therapy. Most important is to titrate the dose of exposure carefully, paying attention to an individual patient's needs. The exposure should generate enough affect that the patient becomes activated and begins to learn how to cope with that affect, but not so much that it's overwhelming.

Many patients have suffered multiple traumas, and Dr. Rothbaum suggested working on the traumas one by one, beginning with the most severe. Some patients won't be able to start with the most severe trauma, so the therapist should negotiate a hierarchy of traumas and the order they are to be worked on with the patient. …

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