Prolonged Exposure Therapy May Help Veterans Suffering From PTSDIf you’ve been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you may suffer from a wide-range of symptoms that occur suddenly and without warning. You may re-experience the trauma unexpectedly, be suddenly reminded of the trauma, feel anxiety because of a memory, and have flashbacks. You’re never sure when these might happen or how they will affect you.  

Prolonged Exposure Therapy Can Help

Some veterans have gained control over these symptoms through a type of therapy call prolonged exposure. This therapy helps patients access their memories about past traumas and deal with them in a way that causes them less stress.

Prolonged exposure therapy can help veterans cope with PTSD through:

  • Education. Before your therapy sessions begin, your therapist will walk you through the course of the treatment. You will learn more about your symptoms, explore common trauma reactions, and set goals for your treatment.
  • Breathing. Your therapist will teach you ways to change your reaction to traumatic memories. This will often begin with breathing recognition and retraining, as rapid breathing adds to an increased stress level. Learning how to control your breathing will help you manage stress at the onset of a reaction and help gain control over your feelings.
  • Imaginal exposure. In the first part of your therapy, you and your therapist will talk about your traumatic experience starting with elements that are less distressing and moving toward elements that are more stressful—all in an effort to reduce their power over you. Talking about your trauma is called imaginal exposure, and this process trains your mind and body to acknowledge your fear without panicking.
  • Real-life situations. You may practice exposure therapy in real-world situations. At first, you may address one of your therapy goals or triggers, such as riding an elevator. You and your therapist may perform the first exposure practice together, and you will be asked to share your experience for your therapy sessions to make the next goal easier to obtain.

Help for Your PTSD

If you’re a veteran and have been diagnosed with PTSD, you may be eligible for VA benefits. If you’d like to learn about ways veterans with PTSD can get the help they need and deserve, download a free copy of our book, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska