What is cognitive processing therapy (CPT)?

What is cognitive processing therapy?

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that focuses on helping people who are “trapped in” by traumatic thoughts. It was developed by Dr. Patricia Resick and other psychologists to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The basis of CPT is that PTSD symptoms stem from the conflict between pre-traumatic beliefs about self and the world and post-traumatic information.For example, pre-traumatic beliefs may be The world is a safe place, nothing bad will happen to me, And post-traumatic information may indicate that the world is actually dangerous and dangerous. These conflicts are called “stuck points” and can be resolved through various techniques, such as writing articles about traumatic events.

Your therapist will help you to identify and resolve blocking points and errors in your thinking, including such things as I’m bad or I did something worthy of this, For example. Your therapist can help you resolve these errors or obstacles by asking you to gather evidence that supports and opposes these ideas.

CPT and exposure therapy

Similar to exposure therapy for PTSD, CPT provides people with information about PTSD and helps them face unpleasant memories and thoughts related to traumatic events.However, unlike CPT, exposure therapy does not always help people Addressing These misunderstandings of thinking.

In CPT, your therapist will help you face the fearful thoughts and memories associated with the traumatic event. They will also help when you learn to correct maladaptive, unrealistic, or problematic ideas that may cause symptoms of PTSD.


CPT is a highly structured treatment. It consists of 12 lessons per week, each lesson is approximately one hour. These meetings can be held in small groups, one-on-one, or a combination of small groups and individuals, and can be offered face-to-face or online. The conference is divided into different stages, dealing with different treatment components.

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Psychological education

Your initial course will involve psychological education about PTSD and CPT methods. Your therapist may ask about your symptoms and talk about your treatment goals. They will discuss how your thoughts about trauma affect your mood and daily experience.

Understand your thoughts and feelings

Next, you will learn to better understand your thoughts and feelings about trauma and how you might fall into beliefs that hurt you. You will work with your therapist to determine and analyze your blocking point.

You may be asked to write an impact statement that discusses your thoughts and beliefs about trauma. This statement will discuss why you think the trauma occurred and the way you think it affected your life. Not every CPT therapist will ask you to write an impact statement, but they will ask you to consider your trauma and its impact.

If you are participating in group therapy, you do not need to read your impact statement aloud in front of everyone. You can share it with your therapist alone, or they may just ask you to revisit it privately throughout the treatment.

In addition to your impact statement, your therapist may also ask you to record your traumatic experience in detail. In addition to your thoughts and feelings, these accounts will also include sensory details that you remember.

Learn new skills

At this stage, you will learn how to question and challenge your thoughts and feelings, and explore how you prefer to perceive trauma. Your therapist will examine the common thinking patterns of people with PTSD and teach you cognitive coping skills.

They may ask you to look for evidence that supports or opposes your beliefs about trauma. You may fill out a worksheet during this part of the treatment, whether it is as homework during or after treatment.

Change your belief

Finally, you will learn about the common situations in which a person’s thoughts and beliefs about the world change after trauma, and you will learn how to balance the way you saw the world before and the way you see it now. Your treatment will focus on helping you solve the five problems that PTSD patients often encounter in life:

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  • respect
  • Intimacy
  • Power or control
  • Safety
  • Believe

Before ending treatment, you will rewrite your impact statement and compare it with your original version. You and your therapist may also discuss areas where problems may arise in the future. If these possibilities occur, you will jointly develop a plan to manage these possibilities.

How can CPT help

CPT focuses on helping people with PTSD and trauma-related symptoms, such as:

CPT may be helpful to people who have experienced trauma in various situations, including veterans, survivors of sexual violence, and survivors of childhood abuse.

Benefits of CPT

CPT can help you learn how to change negative and unhelpful thoughts related to PTSD and trauma. By solving these problems, you can reduce symptoms and learn healthier coping methods.

Studies have shown that CPT does affect negative perceptions related to PTSD, and it can reduce these thoughts even after treatment. By targeting negative perceptions and encouraging new ways of thinking about trauma, CPT therapists can help their clients change their overall thinking.

CPT may even have a positive impact in areas not specifically targeted during treatment. For example, people receiving CPT may experience less despair than people receiving other forms of treatment. This is true even if solving despair is not the specific goal of treatment.


CPT is considered an effective treatment for PTSD. Studies have shown that people who receive CPT have fewer symptoms associated with PTSD, and these positive effects seem to be long-lasting. CPT also seems to reduce the severity of PTSD symptoms, including trauma-related depression, Even compared to other forms of treatment.

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These positive impacts are usually visible in the customer’s written impact statement. A 2014 study looked at statements at the beginning and end of treatment and found that people reported that they took a more positive attitude towards their trauma and saw improvements in the following areas:

  • Believe in the abilities of oneself and others
  • sense of security
  • Happiness level
  • Intimacy
  • Self-esteem
  • Personal sense of power and ability to control the environment
  • Tolerance for negative emotions

Things to consider

CPT may not be recommended to people with certain conditions. If you experience one or more of the following conditions, please consult your primary care provider or mental health care provider before starting CPT:

How to start

If you are interested in CPT, please search for a trained treatment provider in your area. You can also learn more about CPT from the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Research.

If you are a U.S. veteran, you can get CPT services through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Office of Mental Health Services in Virginia has CPT-trained therapists across the country. Discuss with your VA healthcare provider about including CPT in your PTSD treatment plan.

Once you start treatment, your therapist will explain their process and let you know what will happen. CPT usually includes homework, handouts, and writing assignments, so you need to be prepared to work in and out of the course.

Because CPT involves exposing your trauma, whether by writing it down or discussing it with your therapist, it can be an emotional experience. Your therapist can help you provide a safe environment to deal with these emotions, while helping you learn to resolve your blocking points and move on.