If a person is willing or at least open to the idea of engaging with our team at The PTSD Project, then the chances are that we can help, and if there is something we cannot help with directly ourselves, we often know somebody who can. We always try to provide in house care but on occassions, funds permitting, we will endeavour to cover the financial costs of therapies and treatments that we do not provide directly.
Treatments available with The PTSD Project
When people are seeking out treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), many wonder if treatment will provide a cure. There are a number of effective treatments for PTSD, such as various therapy techniques, as well as evidence that medication may be useful for people struggling with symptoms of PTSD. These treatment methods are used to help minimise, or even eliminate, distressing symptoms that people with PTSD often experience. We always advocate ‘talking treatments’ first.
Talking treatments for PTSD
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – the organisation that produces guidelines on best practice in health care – currently recommends two types of talking treatment for PTSD:
- Trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (TF-CBT). This is a form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) specifically adapted for PTSD. NICE recommends that you are offered 8–12 regular sessions of around 60–90 minutes, seeing the same therapist at least once a week. See our pages on CBT for more information about this therapy.
- Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR). This is a fairly new treatment that can reduce PTSD symptoms such as being easily startled. It involves making rhythmic eye movements while recalling the traumatic event. The rapid eye movements are intended to create a similar effect to the way your brain processes memories and experiences while you’re sleeping. EMDR UK & Ireland – a professional association of EMDR clinicians and researchers – provides extensive information about EMDR on its website.
Here is a quote from a veteran who engaged with our services, after an assessment we were able to refer him to one of our in house specialists for EMDR treatment……
“One of the most disturbing things has been the feelings of aggression and anger towards anyone who looks like the person who attacked me… EMDR therapy has been massively helpful.”
What if I don’t feel better?
If the talking treatment you try doesn’t seem to be helping
- tell your doctor or therapist you were expecting to feel differently
- ask if you need more treatment, or a different type of treatment.
Your doctor or therapist should offer you a second course of treatment or a follow-up appointment.
People experiencing PTSD aren’t routinely prescribed medication. However, you might be offered medication if:
- you also have depression
- you have sleep problems caused by PTSD
- you are unable or unwilling to try talking treatments.
If you are offered medication for PTSD, this will usually be an antidepressant. While PTSD is not the same as depression, this type of medication has been found to help. NICE recommends four antidepressants in particular:
- paroxetine – can be prescribed by a GP
- mirtazapine – can be prescribed by a GP
- amitriptyline – must be prescribed by a specialist
- phenelzine – must be prescribed by a specialist.
Some doctors may choose to prescribe other antidepressants for PTSD, such as sertraline. The PTSD Project do not give advice on medicines, you should speak directly to the therapist/specialist we appoint you, or your GP.
Before you take any medication
Before you decide to take any medication, you should make sure you have all the facts you need to feel confident about your decision. For guidance on what you might want to know about any drug before you take it, see our pages on:
- what you should know before taking any psychiatric drug
- receiving the right medication for you
- your right to refuse medication
There are a variety of psychotherapy techniques that can be used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. However, there are a few that are growing in researched-based evidence to show their effectiveness in the treatment of PTSD.
Once you find a mental health professional, think of what you’d like to discuss with him/her including your thoughts, feelings, symptoms, and more. These things all provide valuable information to your therapist in order to help you understand and manage your symptoms.
Cognitive Processing Therapy
Cognitive processing therapy is a specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy that focuses on how your traumatic event is perceived and how you tend to cope with the emotional and mental part of your experience. This process includes educating you on the elements of cognitive behavioral therapy and emphasizes that you and your therapist work together as a team.
Together you collaborate in processing the traumatic event and work through “stuck points.” Stuck points are certain thoughts related to the trauma that are preventing recovery. This method of counseling can be conducted in an individual or group format.
Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing is more commonly referred to as EMDR. This is a type of psychotherapy often used with survivors of trauma, particularly those experiencing symptoms of PTSD. This technique utilizes bilateral sensory input such as side-to-side eye movements to help you process difficult memories, thoughts, and emotions related to your trauma.
As described by the EMDR Institute, “Unlike talk therapy, the insights clients gain in EMDR therapy result not so much from clinician interpretation but from the client’s own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes.” In EMDR therapy, the past, present, and future are all addressed using an established eight-phase treatment approach.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a style of talk-therapy that focuses on the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. CBT targets current symptoms and problems, usually lasting 12 to 16 sessions and can be done in an individual or group format.
Together with your therapist, you will work to identify distortions or unhelpful patterns in your thoughts and feelings related to the trauma. The goal of CBT is to help you return to a place where you regain hope, feel a greater sense of control in your thoughts and behaviors, as well as help you to reduce escape or avoidance behaviors.
Of course there are other treatment options……
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Some people with PTSD say they have found other treatments helpful in managing their condition, such as group therapy, arts therapies or dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT). However, the NICE guidelines say that treatments that have not been designed or properly tested for people who have experienced trauma should not be used on their own.
As we stated before, a sufferer of PTSD is reccommended to seek the proper medical help they need, which we can help to arrange. However there is no reason you cannot look at other options to run alongside medical support.
Yoga has been shown to offer wonderful healing benefit to a variety of populations, including those with mental health conditions, and is widely known for the benefit of stress relief. For people with PTSD, trauma-sensitive yoga can be of great benefit. Research showed that this particular style of yoga helped to significantly reduce PTSD symptoms in their participants. As compared to other styles of yoga, trauma-sensitive yoga focuses on more gentle movements and less hands-on adjustment.
This method of healing is a Chinese medicine energy practice that involves inserting thin needles into certain areas of the body to help prevent or relieve health issues. Approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs as an approved complementary and alternative medicine treatment for PTSD, studies have shown acupuncture to be safe and cost-effective.7 Common reports by patients include a significant reduction in feelings of stress and anxiety.
As well as innovative treatments such as…..
Virtual Reality Exposure
Exposure therapy has been shown effective in the treatment of many anxiety-related disorders, as it helps you approach aspects of your trauma with less fear, working to become desensitized to the impact of your experience. Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) offers the technology for you to be gradually exposed to your traumatic situation while working closely with a trained clinician.
The visual situations are manipulated by the clinician and talked through together, continuing to expose you to the traumatic event and, over time, helping the event to have less and less emotional impact.
As one combat veteran participant told us
“You go over the story over and over again. I got so bored with my own story that it no longer elicited a reaction.”
Here are some ways you could access treatment:
- Your GP. Treatment on the NHS
- Free NHS therapy services. NHS Choices website.
- Specialist organisations. We can refer you to or be able to put you in touch with local services.
- Local trauma services. Some organisations offer free or low-cost trauma therapy. We may be able to help with costs.
- The PTSD Project. Contact us
Although there are no medications that have been specifically designed to treat PTSD, there are a variety of well-established medications currently used to treat other psychiatric conditions such as mood and anxiety disorders that have been found to be helpful in managing PTSD symptoms.
Up to 50% of those diagnosed with PTSD also meet criteria for the diagnosis of major depressive disorder.
Remember that each person will respond differently in their tolerance and the perceived effectiveness of the medications used. It can take some time to find the best fit for you or your loved one. The medication part of your treatment will need to be monitored closely and managed by a trained medical professional.
If you find that you or your loved one experience the following while using your prescribed medication, please notify your medical provider, as some of the side effects to the above medications can include:
- Changes in sexual function