What is Cognitive Processing Therapy

What is Cognitive Processing Therapy & Why Is It Useful?

Cognitive processing therapy is one of many techniques that can be used to help people sort out their thoughts and start to make sense of them, but it is most useful for people who have suffered from traumatic experiences. This article will cover what you need to know about this type of therapy and how it can potentially be a valuable tool for you.

Cognitive Processing Therapy: An Overview

Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) technique that aims to reduce symptoms of PTSD and other trauma-related conditions.

There might be some confusion regarding CPT and CBT, after all they sound similar, but essentially CPT is a type of CBT.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a generic or umbrella term for strategies that aim to change a person’s thoughts, and by doing so, their behaviors, feelings and emotions will follow suit.

Exposure therapy and cognitive processing therapy are two examples of CBT-based techniques, and both are effective at treating PTSD.

When people start CPT treatment, they begin by trying to identify the automatic thoughts that allow PTSD to persist. People can get stuck on countless different thoughts, and the role of CPT is to help get people unstuck and start to correct these maladaptive thinking and behavior patterns.

How Cognitive Processing Therapy Works

Similar to exposure therapy, cognitive processing therapy allows patients to confront their traumatic thoughts and memories and start to address them.

However, since it’s not realistic to revisit traumatic places, objects, or situations in-person, since it can be dangerous and impossible to recreate, people who start CPT will typically use writing to tell the story of their trauma.

One session may consist entirely of writing and the following one may involve reading it out loud, and this lets you confront the situation and not avoid it.

Like other mental health conditions, like phobias and OCD, avoidance thoughts and behaviors are what allow these disorders to be so persistent, because it reinforces fearfulness. Writing and reading allow you to break free from these habits, and helps you get “unstuck.”

In addition to this, your therapist will ask you questions about your specific thoughts about the traumatic event, and many clients have negative thoughts and feelings attached to the situation that must be addressed in order to make a change.

For instance, it’s very common for people to blame themselves for something bad happening, and the therapist will help the patient challenge these unhelpful thinking patterns so that they can make progress.

By being able to adapt and change these thoughts, people who have suffered from traumatic experiences can learn how to have better control of themselves and improve their self-esteem.

Where To Find A CPT Therapist

Trauma can affect anyone at any time, and there are too many possibilities that people can endure.

Unfortunately, many people choose not to talk about their concerns with their loved ones, which is why it’s important to seek out treatment from a professional who can provide the skills they need to overcome trauma.

At BetterHelp, licensed and professional counselors are available online to do just that and are trained in cognitive processing therapy and other CBT-based methods, like exposure therapy.

These strategies can help you change your life, and finding someone who understands what you’re going through is just a click away at BetterHelp.


Hopefully, by reading this article, you have a better understanding of what cognitive processing therapy entails and how it can benefit you. If you struggle with PTSD or any trauma-related incident, you can overcome it and live life on your own terms, and not be hindered by unwanted and unhelpful thinking and behavior patterns.

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