Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

Trauma often causes people to struggle with their memories and thoughts about traumatic events. You may have a hard time making sense of what happened. You may find yourself getting “stuck” in your thoughts about the trauma and how it affects your life. These thoughts can be distressing and you may want to avoid thinking about or dealing with your memories. 

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) helps you by giving you new ways to handle these distressing thoughts and to gain an understanding of these events. By using the skills learned in this therapy, you can learn why recovery from traumatic events has been hard for you. CPT helps you learn how experiencing trauma changed the way you look at yourself and the world. The way we think and look at things, in turn, directly affects how you feel and act. This therapy is quite effective in group settings because learning about the thoughts and feelings of others provides opportunities for you to improve and gain additional perspectives. It can also help you recognize that while people’s traumatic events may be different, the resulting thoughts and feelings can frequently be very similar.

CPT has four main parts:

  1. Learning about PTSD symptoms and rationale for treatment: CPT begins with education about PTSD symptoms and how the treatment addresses them. The therapy plan will be reviewed and the reasons for each part of the therapy are explained. 
  2. Becoming aware of thoughts and feelings: Next, CPT focuses on helping you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. When bad things happen, we want to make sense of why they happened. For example, an individual who thinks to himself or herself, “I should have known that this would happen.” Sometimes we get stuck on these thoughts. In CPT, you learn how to pay attention to thoughts about trauma and how they make you feel. You can then step back and think about how trauma has affected you. This helps you think about trauma in a different way. It can be done either by writing or by talking to the therapist about it. 
  3. Learn skills to challenge thoughts: After becoming more aware of thoughts and feelings, you learn skills to question honestly or challenge your thoughts. This is done with the help of worksheets completed between sessions and with in-session discussions. You can use these skills to decide the way you want to think and feel about trauma. These skills can also help deal with other problems in day-to-day life. 
  4. Understanding changes in beliefs: Finally, you learn about common changes in beliefs that occur after experiencing trauma. Many people struggle with figuring out how to live in the world after trauma. Your beliefs about safety, trust, control, self-esteem, other people, and relationships can change after trauma. In CPT you will get to talk about your beliefs in these different areas. You will learn to find a better balance between the beliefs you had before and after your trauma. 

CPT Commitment

CPT is conducted on a regular basis, usually weekly, for 12 sessions. It is typically recommended as a group therapy format but is also available as individual therapy. Participation in this requires practicing new skills outside of therapy sessions. The more you practice these skills, the sooner they begin working for you. By choosing to approach your experiences in a new and more adaptive way, you will be able to change the way your past experience affect your future.

Learn more about CPT

Therapy Note from Dr. Fry

This is my favorite treatment and is considered a gold standard treatment – that means there is a lot of science to support its results. While treatment results are never guaranteed, I have seen it be life changing. Feel free to ask any questions.