Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Prolonged Exposure Therapy (for PTSD)

Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) is a treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) designed to treat the avoidance of trauma-related situations, trauma-related thoughts and images, and the unhelpful cognitions that are formed as a result of the traumatic experience. To learn more about Edna Foa, read this article on, which ranked Edna Foa as one of the most influential people of 2010.

How does Prolonged Exposure Therapy work?

Prolonged Exposure Therapy is an evidenced-based short-term therapy that has been proven to effectively reduce the symptoms of PTSD. PE therapy has four main components:

  • Education. PE starts with education about the treatment and common reactions to trauma.
  • Breathing retraining is a way of learning to breathe to calm the mind and body.
  • In-vivo exposure. Real life practice of exposure to trauma related situations that one may be avoiding, but which are inherently safe.
  • Imaginal exposure is the repeated exposure to the trauma related memories, conducted during individual PE therapy sessions.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy is typically conducted in 90-minute individual therapy sessions. Typical PE can be completed in 8-15 sessions.

To schedule an appointment with one of our clinicians, or learn more about prolonged exposure therapy, please call our office (804-591-0002) or request an appointment online.

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

PTSD can be triggered by the exposure to a traumatic event in which a person has experienced or witnessed an event that involves actual or threatened death or injury to oneself or others and the person experienced intense fear, horror, or helplessness at the time of the event. Some examples of a traumatic event may be rape, natural disaster, combat, childhood abuse, motor vehicle accident, and assault.

PTSD is characterized by the re-experiencing of a traumatic event, usually through intrusive memories, flashbacks, nightmares, and strong reactions to trauma related cues and triggers. Most people attempt to resolve these intrusive struggles by avoiding that which triggers them. Unfortunately, the avoidance only serves to enhance the distress related to the traumatic memories and cues. Over time the avoidance can have a significant negative impact on overall ability to function and engage in previously enjoyable activities. However, Prolonged Exposure Therapy provides a pathway from this disabling fear.

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