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Trauma affects how we feel and how we think. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) looks at the thoughts that stop you from healing and challenges what those thoughts are telling you. CPT focuses on how you have processed your trauma. Through CPT, you learn to redefine your thoughts and feelings about your trauma to become emotionally balanced.


When you change how you think about an event, the way you feel about it changes too. When your thoughts and feelings about your trauma are more balanced, you are likely to feel less guilt, shame and depression. The new perspective you develop may reduce your PTSD symptoms.

Other benefits of CPT treatment can include:

  • You may feel calmer when you remember your trauma
  • You may feel less stressed or emotionally numb

You may feel less on-edge and reactive to those you love

What to expect

The process usually starts with writing about the impact the traumatic event has had on your life. Your service provider will help you with this. This “impact statement” helps you and your service provider identify which ideas are the main culprits that are stopping you from healing. Your service provider will give you worksheets and questions to help you learn to challenge these ideas, these “stuck points.” Together, you will explore the effect of trauma on your feelings of safety, trust, power, esteem and intimacy.

Towards the end of treatment, you will write a new impact statement and compare it to the first.

CPT is offered to individuals or through group therapy. Groups are usually six to 10 people. Current research says that individual CPT therapy offers the greatest benefits.

CPT typically does not involve talking about your trauma itself. Instead, it focuses on the impact your trauma has had. Some discussion of your trauma is necessary for the process, but it doesn’t need to involve a lot of detail. It is important to remember that you are in charge of the process. You can go through CPT at a pace that is comfortable for you.

Each session usually lasts between 50 and 90 minutes. With weekly sessions, CPT usually lasts about 12 weeks. More sessions could help if you have experienced multiple traumas.

You will be asked to complete some writing and worksheets between sessions.

Talking about trauma-related memories and their impact can be uncomfortable. These feelings don’t tend to last very long. Many people feel better as they continue with CPT.

Most people who complete CPT find that the benefits are far greater than any discomfort they experience during it.