Prolonged Exposure Therapy Ottawa

Prolonged Exposure Therapy in Ottawa

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Learn More About Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Prolonged Exposure (PE) is a therapeutic approach primarily used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It was developed by Edna Foa and her colleagues in the 1980s and has since been extensively researched and proven effective in reducing PTSD symptoms.

The goal of Prolonged Exposure is to help individuals confront and process traumatic memories and situations that they have been avoiding. It is based on the idea that avoidance is a primary factor in maintaining PTSD symptoms. By gradually and systematically facing the trauma-related memories, thoughts, and situations that cause distress, individuals can learn to reduce their fear and anxiety responses.

The treatment typically involves several components:

1. Psychoeducation: The therapist provides information about PTSD, its symptoms, and the rationale behind Prolonged Exposure. This helps individuals understand the purpose and benefits of the treatment.

2. Breathing Retraining: Individuals are taught diaphragmatic breathing techniques to help manage anxiety and arousal symptoms. This technique promotes relaxation and helps individuals feel more in control of their physical responses.

3. Imaginal Exposure: This component involves repeatedly recounting the traumatic event in detail. Individuals are asked to vividly describe the traumatic memory, including sensory details, emotions, and thoughts associated with the event. This process helps individuals confront and process the memories that they have been avoiding.

4. In Vivo Exposure: In this component, individuals gradually confront situations or activities that they have been avoiding due to their association with the traumatic event. This may involve visiting places or engaging in activities that remind them of the trauma. By facing these situations, individuals learn that they can tolerate the distress and that the feared outcomes do not occur.

Throughout the treatment, individuals are encouraged to engage in between-session exposure exercises, where they practice confronting trauma-related memories or situations on their own. These exercises help reinforce the learning and generalization of skills outside of therapy sessions.

Research has consistently shown that Prolonged Exposure is effective in reducing PTSD symptoms and improving overall functioning. It has been found to be equally effective in both civilian and military populations. Additionally, studies have shown that PE is effective in reducing comorbid symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, and improving quality of life.

It is important to note that Prolonged Exposure is a structured and evidence-based treatment that should be conducted by trained mental health professionals. It is tailored to each individual’s needs and progresses at a pace that is manageable for the client.

Here are some key findings from peer-reviewed resources that explain Prolonged Exposure (PE):

1. Foa, E. B., Hembree, E. A., & Rothbaum, B. O. (2007). Prolonged exposure therapy for PTSD: Emotional processing of traumatic experiences therapist guide. Oxford University Press. – This book, authored by Edna Foa and her colleagues, provides a comprehensive guide to Prolonged Exposure therapy for PTSD. It outlines the theoretical foundations, treatment techniques, and the empirical evidence supporting the effectiveness of PE. The book also includes case examples and practical tips for implementing PE in clinical practice.
2. Powers, M. B., Halpern, J. M., Ferenschak, M. P., Gillihan, S. J., & Foa, E. B. (2010). A meta-analytic review of prolonged exposure for posttraumatic stress disorder. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(6), 635-641. – This meta-analysis examined 36 studies on Prolonged Exposure therapy for PTSD and found that it was highly effective in reducing PTSD symptoms. The analysis showed that PE had large effect sizes for reducing both self-reported and clinician-rated PTSD symptoms. The study also highlighted the durability of treatment effects, with improvements maintained at follow-up assessments.
3. Resick, P. A., & Schnicke, M. K. (1996). Cognitive processing therapy for sexual assault victims. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64(4), 748-756. – This study examined the effectiveness of Prolonged Exposure therapy in the treatment of sexual assault victims with PTSD. The results showed significant reductions in PTSD symptoms, depression, and anxiety following treatment. The study also highlighted the importance of addressing trauma-related thoughts and beliefs as part of the treatment process.
4. Rothbaum, B. O., Astin, M. C., & Marsteller, F. (2005). Prolonged exposure versus eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) for PTSD rape victims. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 18(6), 607-616. – This study compared the effectiveness of Prolonged Exposure therapy with Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) in the treatment of rape victims with PTSD. The results showed that both treatments were effective in reducing PTSD symptoms, but Prolonged Exposure resulted in greater reductions in avoidance and numbing symptoms. The study suggested that PE may be particularly beneficial for addressing avoidance behaviors associated with PTSD.

These peer-reviewed resources provide evidence for the effectiveness of Prolonged Exposure therapy in reducing PTSD symptoms and improving overall functioning. They highlight the importance of emotional processing of traumatic memories and the gradual confrontation of avoided situations. It is essential to consult these and other relevant studies for a comprehensive understanding of Prolonged Exposure and its application in clinical practice.


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