Duke University professor Dr. Patricia Resick worked with 250 participants in the largest PTSD trial of active duty military members, WRAL reports.
Resick, a professor in Duke’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences department, led the trial. The study was conducted at Fort Hood, Texas.
Anyone who experiences trauma can develop PTSD, but the condition is often associated with veterans who served in combat.
According to Resick, military members often experience grief for years after the trauma occurred. The grief is commonly coupled with self-blame.
Blaming oneself is usually at the heart of PTSD.
“So the event keeps coming back at them again and again and again,” Resick said.
Because the trauma reoccurs constantly for these veterans, Prolonged Exposure is a heavily researched cognitive therapy method for PTSD and other conditions.
Prolonged Exposure involves repetitive recall of the event. Essentially, a person with PTSD describes the trauma in detail so often that it “sort of takes the emotional power out of it,” Resick said.
An important aspect to understand about this method is that it does not require the patient to relive the trauma in a harmful way, but rather to think through it in a rational way.
Resick provided an example of how professionals help patients apply rationality to the traumatizing event. For instance, asking them, “How could you have known that this was going to happen in advance? I mean, isn’t that the definition of an ambush?”
By presenting these questions and talking through the event logically, Prolonged Exposure helps patients change their thought process.
“If you change your thoughts, you change your feelings,” Resick noted.
The method involves 12 sessions over six weeks.
The trial produced successful results, with participants experiencing alleviation or even eradication of their symptoms.
Within the group therapy portion of the trial, 37 participants lost their PTSD diagnosis. Individual therapy proved even more fruitful with 50 percent considered cured.