Treating Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with Therapy

Man talking to therapist.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder. It can happen after you go through an extreme trauma, such as a car crash or combat. With PTSD, you constantly relive the trauma through nightmares, intrusive memories, and flashbacks. Therapy (also called counseling) is a very helpful treatment for PTSD. When done by a trained professional, therapy helps you face and learn to manage your problem. It may take some time before you notice how much therapy is helping, but stick with it. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches you to manage anxiety by helping you understand how you think and act when you're anxious. Research has shown that this treatment works very well for anxiety disorders including PTSD. CBT is run almost like a class, with homework and skill-building activities that teach you to cope with anxiety step by step. It can be done in a group or one-on-one, and often takes place for a set number of sessions. CBT has 2 main parts:

  • Cognitive therapy. This helps you identify the negative, irrational thoughts that occur with your anxiety. You'll learn to replace these with more positive, realistic thoughts.

  • Behavioral therapy. This helps you change how you react to anxiety. You'll learn coping skills and relaxation methods to help you deal with anxiety in a whole new way.

Other forms of therapy

Other therapy techniques may work better for you than CBT. Or you may move from CBT to another form of therapy as your treatment progresses. You may meet with a therapist by yourself or in a group, depending on your needs. Therapy can also help you work through problems in your life that may be making your anxiety disorder worse. This includes things such as drug or alcohol abuse.

Getting better with time

Therapy will help you feel better and teach you skills to help manage anxiety long-term. But change doesn't happen right away. It takes a commitment from you. And treatment only works if you learn to face the causes of your anxiety. So, you might feel worse before you feel better. This can sometimes make it hard to stick with it. Remember: Therapy is a very effective treatment. The results will be worth it.


Anxiety and Depression Association of America


National Institute of Mental Health

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry