treatment for PTSD therapy for PTSD

22 Treatment and Therapy Options for Managing PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often a complex and challenging condition to manage. Complex because it can stem from any number of traumatic events, possibly spanning over many years, and can be complicated by other patterns of stress from earlier in life. And challenging because a successful recovery requires from the individual a long-term commitment to continually manage the debilitating affects of their traumatic memories, and the motivation to develop and regularly revise their optimal treatment plan.

As more research is conducted on psychological injuries, and our understanding of PTSD grows, additional treatment options are being developed. Generally, the most successful treatment plans involve a multi-faceted approach, which is then regularly reviewed and revised by the individual and their medical team.

Any treatment plan for PTSD should address the following considerations:
– current psychological state of the individual
– previous treatment experiences
– any other medical conditions, both physical and psychological
– risk of substance abuse and self-harm
– level of motivation towards recovery
– existing support network
– location

Although a medical professional, I am in no position to endorse or recommend any particular treatments or therapies for PTSD. The following list is compiled from personal experiences of people with PTSD (of any cause) and their loved ones. Please speak with your own medical team before commencing any new treatment or therapy for PTSD.

 

PLEASE NOTE: The following list is arranged alphabetically to discount any bias, and each entry is concluded with the relevant online reference used and suggested texts, if applicable. This is not intended as a complete list of therapies that may help PTSD; if you have experience with a treatment or therapy not listed here, please comment below so it can be added.

 

1. ACCELERATED RESOLUTION THERAPY (ART)

A variation of EMDR (see below), Accelerated Resolution Therapy is a form of psychotherapy. Patients with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, substance abuse, sexual abuse and many other mental and physical conditions can experience benefits as early as the first session. The process uses relaxing eye movements and a technique called Voluntary Memory/Image Replacement to change the way in which the negative images are stored in the brain. The treatment is grounded in well-established psychotherapy techniques, and the end result is that traumas and difficult life experiences will no longer trigger strong emotions or physical reactions. Importantly, patients do not have talk about their traumas or difficult life experiences with the therapist to achieve recovery. (acceleratedresolutiontherapy.com)

 

2. BRAINSPOTTING (BSP)

Brainspotting is a relatively new brain-based tool. It is believed that BSP taps into and harnesses the body’s natural self-scanning, self-healing ability. BSP makes use of the natural phenomenon of “where we look affects how we feel” through its use of relevant eye positions. This helps the BSP therapist to locate, focus, process and release a wide range of emotionally and bodily-based conditions. When a “Brainspot” is stimulated, the deep brain appears to reflexively signal the therapist that the source of the problem has been found. BSP can also be used to find and strengthen our natural resources and resilience. BSP is designed as a therapeutic tool that can be integrated into a many of healing modalities. (brainspottingaustraliapacific.com.au)

Brainspotting: The Revolutionary New Therapy for Rapid and Effective Change, by David Grand

Brainspotting: Biolateral Sound Healing to Enhance Your Brain (audio CD), by David Grand

 

3. COGNITIVE BEHAVIOUR THERAPY (CBT)

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is an effective treatment approach for a range of mental and emotional health issues including anxiety and depression. CBT aims to help a person identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts and to learn practical self-help strategies. These strategies are designed to bring about positive and immediate changes in the person’s quality of life. CBT can be beneficial for anyone who needs support to challenge unhelpful thoughts that are preventing them from reaching their goals or living the life they want to live. CBT aims to show people how their thinking affects their mood and to teach them to think in a less negative way about life and themselves. It is based on the understanding that thinking negatively is a habit that, like any other habit, can be broken. (betterhealth.vic.gov.au)

Mindfulness-Integrated CBT for Well-Being and Personal Growth: Four Steps to Enhance Inner Calm, Self-Confidence and Relationships, by Bruno A. Cayoun

Change Your Thinking with CBT: Overcome Stress, Combat Anxiety and Improve Your Life, by Dr. Sarah Edelman

 

4. COMPREHENSIVE RESOURCE MODEL (CRM)

The Comprehensive Resource Model is a relatively new therapy based on Brainspotting (see above). CRM activates the innate organic healing energy grid within the body thus enhancing dormant neurobiological attachment processes/attunement, and identifying and connecting with core self and spiritual essence allowing for the power and augmentation of one’s potential to heal and be healed. The mission of CRM is to remember, re-process, and release traumatic material from the nervous system in order to provide the opportunity for re-connection to one’s true self, the meaning of the truth of one’s life, and to the ability to embody love in one’s actions.(comprehensiveresourcemodel.com)

The Comprehensive Resource Model: Effective Therapeutic Techniques for the Healing of Complex Trauma, by Lisa Schwarz, Frank Corrigan, Alastair Hull and Rajiv Raju

 

5. CRANIAL ELECTROTHERAPY STIMULATION (CES)

Also known by the trade-name Alpha-Stim, Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation is a form of non-invasive brain stimulation that applies a small, pulsed electric current across a person’s head with the intention of treating a variety of conditions such as anxiety, depression and insomnia. Despite the long history of CES, its underlying principles and mechanisms are still not clear. CES treatments have been found to induce changes in neurohormones and neurotransmitters that have been implicated in psychiatric disorders, although there is little evidence of its effectiveness in many conditions. (en.wikipedia.org)

 

6. ELECTROCONVULSIVE THERAPY (ECT)

Electroconvulsive Therapy is a procedure used to treat certain psychiatric conditions. It involves passing a carefully controlled electric current through the brain, which affects the brain’s activity and aims to relieve severe depressive and psychotic symptoms. Modern day ECT is safe and effective. It can relieve symptoms of the most severe forms of depression more effectively than medication or therapy, but because it is an intrusive procedure and can cause some memory problems, ECT should be used only when absolutely necessary. (beyondblue.org.au)

Shock Therapy: A History of Electroconvulsive Treatment in Mental Illness, by Edward Shorter and David Healy

 

7. EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUES (EFT)

Emotional Freedom Techniques are emotional healing techniques, which contends that the cause of all negative emotions is a disruption in the body’s energy system. Essentially, EFT is a form of “psychological acupressure” – except that needles are not used. The approach relieves symptoms by tapping on various body locations. This tapping balances energy meridians that become disrupted when we think about or experience an emotionally disturbing circumstance. Once balanced, the upset is usually resolved – the memory stays but the emotional charge is gone. (eftdownunder.com)

Enjoy Emotional Freedom: Simple Techniques for Living Life to the Full, by Steve Wells and David Lake

Heal Yourself with Emotional Freedom Technique: Teach Yourself, by John Freedom

 

8. EQUINE ASSISTED THERAPY (EAT)

Equine Assisted Therapy is a healing treatment that combines credentialed mental health professionals and one or more therapeutic horses. Through grooming the horse or other beneficial activities, clients are supported and guided in learning more about themselves, working through difficulties, and improving communication and relationship skills. EAT may be helpful in treating individuals with personal and psychological concerns, including PTSD, substance abuse and addictions, depression and anxiety, and stress. (equineassistedtherapyaustralia.com.au)

Beyond Words: The Healing Power of Horses: Bridging the Worlds of Equine Assisted Therapy and Psychotherapy, by Alita H. Buzel PH.D.

 

9. EXERCISE

Studies have shown that patients who receive an exercise program in addition to usual care show greater improvements in symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety and stress compared to those who receive usual care alone. And the benefits of the exercise program extend well beyond improved mental health. Similar results were found demonstrating a positive effect of the exercise program on sleep quality, known to be poor amongst people experiencing PTSD. Exercise is now being included as a key part of PTSD treatment programs around the world. While it is true that without mental health there can be no true physical health, exercise appears to be vital for both. (theconversation.com)

8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise, by Christina G. Hibbert

 

10. EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITISATION & REPROCESSING (EMDR)

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing is a powerful psychological treatment that has been used effectively for over 20 years in a variety of international settings and cultures with many different types of psychological distress. EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment, and uses eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) during one part of the session. It enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. (emdr.com)

EMDR: The Breakthrough Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma, by Francine Shapiro and Margot Silk Forrest

Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-help Techniques from EMDR Therapy, by Francine Shapiro

 

11. GROUNDING

Grounding is a particular type of coping strategy that is designed to “ground” a person in or immediately connect them with the present moment. Grounding is often used as a way of coping with flashbacks or dissociation for people with PTSD. In this way, grounding can be considered a variant of mindfulness (see below). Grounding techniques often use the five senses (sound, touch, smell, taste, and sight) to immediately connect people with the here and now. (verywell.com)

 

12. GROUP THERAPY

Peer support groups can be an important part of dealing with PTSD because they can give a sense of connection to other people, but they are not a substitute for effective treatment for PTSD. Joining a peer support group can help in many ways, such as knowing that others are going through something similar, learning tips on how to handle day-to-day challenges, meeting new friends or connecting to others who understand, learning how to talk more openly or how to ask for help, learning to trust other people, and hearing about helpful new perspectives from others. Support groups can also help family members or friends who are caring for someone with PTSD. (ptsd.va.gov)

 

13. HEALING TOUCH THERAPY

Healing touch therapy is an “energy therapy” that uses gentle hand techniques thought to help re-pattern the patient’s energy field and accelerate healing of the body, mind, and spirit. Healing touch may complement other healing techniques a patient may already be using, including conventional medical practice in hospitals, clinics and in-home care, or other body-mind oriented therapies such as massage, guided imagery, music therapy, acupressure, biofeedback, and psychotherapy. It is not intended as a cure. (takingcharge.csh.umn.edu)

 

14. MASSAGE

Professional massage therapy has been shown to support healing from trauma in combination with mental heath support. Massage therapy sessions show positive biochemistry changes, such as reduced cortisol and increased serotonin and dopamine. The effect of this is a reduction in anxiety and feelings of danger. For an individual with PTSD, the long-held stress patterns can begin to dissolve through massage therapy. (incorporatemassage.com)

 

15. MEDICATION

Medications are nearly always used in conjunction with psychotherapy for PTSD, because while medications may treat some of the symptoms commonly associated with the disorder, they will not relieve a person of the flashbacks or feelings associated with the original trauma. If one is receiving a medication from a general practitioner or their doctor, they should nearly always seek a psychotherapy referral in addition to the prescription. Medications used to manage PTSD include: anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication, atypical antipsychotics, mood stabilisers, benzodiazepines (for anxiety or insomnia), alpha-blockers (for nightmares), and (in some countries) medicinal cannabis. (psychcentral.com)

 

16. MINDFULNESS MEDITATION

There is a significant amount of data supporting mindfulness as a treatment approach for patients with PTSD. Research regarding mindfulness meditation’s impact upon the brain in general points to changes in brain structure and function that could account for the reduction of symptoms of PTSD. Deregulation of the brain areas associated with emotional regulation and memory are key contributors to the symptoms associated with PTSD in addition to the over activity of the fear center, the amygdala. Mindfulness reverses these patterns by increasing prefrontal and hippocampal activity, and toning down the amygdala. (mindful.org)

Mindfulness Skills for Trauma and PTSD: Practices for Recovery and Resilience, by Rachel Goldsmith Turow

 

17. NEUROFEEDBACK (NFB)

Neurofeedback helps alleviate PTSD by training the brain to produce a calm state, as well as regulate the stress response. The specific areas of the brain affected by PTSD can also be targeted and trained to produce healthier patterns. Frequently, the first sign of improvement is that an individual sleeps better. Then other symptoms begin to improve, and it is often possible to significantly reduce medications. After sufficient training, a person with PTSD can maintain a calm state on their own. When they have reached this stable state, NFB treatments can be decreased until no further training is necessary. (aboutneurofeedback.com)

Neurofeedback Solution: How to Effectively Treat Autism, ADHD, Anxiety, Brain Injury, Stroke, PTSD, and More, by Stephen Larsen

 

18. PROLONGED EXPOSURE (PE)

Prolonged Exposure is one specific type of cognitive behavioural therapy for PTSD. PE teaches the patient to gradually approach trauma-related memories, feelings, and situations that they have been avoiding since their trauma. By confronting these challenges, the patient can actually decrease their PTSD symptoms. People with PTSD often try to avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma, but avoiding these feelings and situations actually keeps them from recovering from PTSD. PE works by helping the patient face their fears. By talking about the details of the trauma and by confronting safe situations that they have been avoiding, they can decrease their PTSD symptoms and regain more control of their life. (ptsd.va.gov)

 

19. SERVICE DOGS

PTSD Service Dogs can be trained to provide a combination of physical task-oriented and emotional support to assist their owner and help them to overcome fears. Service dogs undergo a unique training placement, where they are trained to work with the very individual and specific needs of their owner, in particular detecting signals of anxiety, or their owner’s trigger. Upon sensing their owner’s trigger, the dog is trained to perform a specific cue to help alleviate the symptoms of this trigger, for example, engaging in eye contact and body contact to comfort their owner and divert their attention. A service dog has full public access rights meaning they are allowed in any public place and on all public transport. (assistancedogs.org.au)

PTSD and Service Dogs: A Training Guide for Sufferers, by Rick and Heather Dillender

 

20. SOUND THERAPY

Music is showing great promise in relieving PTSD’s effects. Studies have shown that music can trigger the brain to release chemicals to distract the body and mind from the pain. Music, as well as binaural beats and isochronic tones which augment the effects, reach the brain’s auditory cortex, which causes the communication between the cortex and the sections of the brain that govern emotion, memory, and body control. But not just any music can work. Music and sounds that have low pitches are most effective, as well as music that is slow, and has a steady beat. Although each patient may react differently to different songs, these kinds of songs have been proven to work best. (brainwavepowermusic.com)

 

21. TRANSCRANIAL MAGNETIC STIMULATION (TMS)

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is a technology that is being developed as a new treatment tool for depression and a number of other disorders. TMS is a procedure that involves the focused application of magnetic energy to superficial regions of the brain, changing the activity level of cells in stimulated areas. This stimulation may be repeated many times per second and with variation in intensity. TMS can be applied in differing ways to either increase or decrease local brain activity. Studies have shown that TMS can act as an antidepressant treatment, and can be used in conjunction with various other treatments and therapies. (themelbourneclinic.com.au)

 

22. YOGA

Yoga is known to help relieve stress and tension and calm the body and mind, but many studies have shown that yoga can be especially beneficial for individuals suffering from PTSD. Yoga calms the nervous system, which helps in PTSD when the sympathetic nervous system, or “fight-or-flight” response, is completely jacked up constantly. Yoga can help with social re-integration. It can reveal the body’s habits, such as patterns for holding stress and pain, and helps people let go of them. And yoga brings a person back to their body, helping with symptoms of disassociation, allowing them to experience flashbacks and to welcome negative thoughts, habits, and emotions with minimal anxiety, knowing it will pass. (yogajournal.com)

iRest Program for Healing PTSD: A Proven-Effective Approach to Using Yoga Nidra Meditation and Deep Relaxation Techniques to Overcome Trauma, by Richard C. Miller

Yoga for Emotional Balance: Simple Practices to Help Relieve Anxiety and Depression, by Bo Forbes

 

 

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11 Comments

  1. My husband has tried many of these and they seem to help a little and we continue to explore the others. He is on medications too and I often wonder if he is over medicated. I try to bring it up that maybe the meds aren’t right and to talk to his doctor but he gets very angry. Not sure if you have gone through this? OR do I need to just let go and let him figure it out? I too am over controlling as you wrote about in another post and might need to just trust and let go.

    • I have the same problem, unfortunately. It seems that whatever I suggest will be instantly dismissed, never to be spoken of again! Occasionally, I go along to his therapy sessions, and that is now where we discuss any treatment or therapy options.

  2. Our Chiropractor does something called NET. My husband had one treatment two days ago and he is changed! I haven’t asked for details as I am afraid I’ll jinx it and I’m not exactly sure what happened as I wasn’t there but I am going to try it in a few weeks. I want to see if it will help with my/his trauma residue. NETmindbody.com. I’ll let you know.

      • It has been seven days and he only retreated to “the cave” once yesterday. Fireworks did not bother him AND he has been kind to me. It has been years since he hasn’t been angrily impatient or snippy rude. I know not to get all excited as it only disappoints, but I am feeling hopeful. I haven’t felt this in years. I hope it is real.

  3. Thanks for always responding to posts. It just helps to hear that I am not alone in this.

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