Department of Psychiatry

Penn Behavioral Health

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Treatment of PTSD at the CTSA

In 1984, the Center began research and treatment programs for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We now offer cutting-edge cognitive-behavioral therapy programs that typically consist of eight to fifteen weekly or twice weekly sessions of a cognitive-behavioral therapy program called prolonged exposure (PE). Sessions last about one and a half hours each, and are designed to enable trauma survivors to overcome their fear, anxiety, and stress. Therapy includes discussing frightening thoughts, breathing retraining, confronting safe situations, and/or by revisiting and recounting  painful memories in order to process them and reduce their emotional impact.

Suitability for the program is determined through a telephone call with one of the Center's staff members and through an initial evaluation with a psychologist at the Center.

Dateline video featuring Prolonged Exposure therapy (PE) for PTSD at the CTSA. 

Treatment of children with PTSD

Treatment is available at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety for children and adolescents who have been exposed to traumatic or life-threatening events and have developed symptoms of PTSD. This treatment is organized around modules that allow the program to be tailored to the developmental level of the child. In this treatment, the child will learn about trauma and its effects, skills for managing stress, and the value of confronting and overcoming fear. The program is developmentally sensitive and encourages youth  to confront feared situations and traumatic memories.

Suitability for this program is determined through a telephone call with one of the Center's staff members and through an initial evaluation with a psychologist at the Center.

Complicated (Prolonged) Grief

The transition period following the death of a loved can be difficult for many of us.  Each person has his or her own manner of grieving.  In general, the most intense period of the grieving process lasts approximately six months, and up to one year for the loss of a child.  After this acute period, other adjustments to the loss naturally take place in one’s life.

For some people, the intense, acute period of grief can become prolonged and extend into years after the death.  Individuals who feel “stuck” in their grief can experience symptoms such as intrusive thoughts of the moment of death, avoiding talking or thinking about the loss, or spending extended time in “reverie” yearning for the past and surrounded by personal items of the lost loved one.  People who experience complicated grief often feel that they have not adjusted to their loss.

We at the CTSA are available for grief therapy, specializing in complicated and prolonged grief.  We use a treatment for complicated grief that is evidence-based and has been found to be effective for many people suffering from a lack of adjustment to a significant death.  The therapist assists individuals to emotionally process the loss, and engage in activities to expand their world and move forward with their lives.

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