Do you suffer with PTSD, or trauma symptoms? If so, should you be seeking EMDR or CBT therapy? I wrote this blog post to help you decide.


Which is More Effective For PTSD?

When it comes to PTSD therapy, there are a few main treatment approaches that are widely available. Many people have heard and read about both EMDR therapy and CBT therapy.

But how are you to know which is better? After all, you will be investing your time, your money and your heart into healing and recovery. Of course you would want the trauma treatment approach that is best for you.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has been found to be a more effective form of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) .

A recent meta-analysis determined that  EMDR is more effective for the treatment of PTSD symptoms when compared to CBT therapy. A meta-analysis is a research study that combines the results of multiple scientific studies.


Why Should You Seek PTSD Treatment?

Over the years, I have had clients confide in me how reluctant they felt to seek PTSD therapy.

They have shared a few of the fears and worries that have stopped them. And they have also talked with me about what made them decide to reach out for help.

Here are some of the common PTSD treatment goals my patients sought:

  • Increased calm- relief from startle reactions, constantly feeling on guard,
  • Feeling more capable- they wanted to stop avoiding the people, places and activities that reminded them of their trauma
  • Becoming more emotionally available- they sought to undo the detached numbness that had taken ahold of them, so that they could be more emotionally present for their loved ones
  • Improved sleep- they wanted to be able to fall asleep more quickly and easily and sleep soundly
  • Healthier relationships- PTSD, or a trauma history can cause you to be distrustful or intimate relationships

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, works by attempting to change the way a trauma survivor feels and acts. It does this by helping the patient learn to identify and change the patterns of thinking and the behavior responsible for maintaining trauma symptoms.

In CBT therapy, individuals learn to identify thoughts that fuel fear, anxiety and upset. They are then taught how and to replace those thoughts with less distressing ones.

CBT’s goal is to understand how certain thoughts maintain PTSD-related stress.

CBT is an excellent treatment modality for some clients. But it has a huge drawback. While it’s common to read stories in the mainstream media touting it’s “evidence base”, the truth is many clients don’t like it and won’t do it.

As a clinician, I have offered CBT therapy for almost 20 years. I have facilitated countless CBT therapy groups in a variety of mental health settings. CBT therapy is a structure and goal focused treatment. While there is always a small minority of clients who love CBT, it is typically only effective with therapy clients who love and will do homework.

That is not most people.

The truth is, most therapy clients don’t like homework and don’t want to do it. When I ask clients about their previous experiences with CBT therapy, I quickly tend to hear a description of a therapy in which little, or no CBT took place. My impression is that most therapists who claim to practice CBT, quickly adapt their approach to fit the needs of most clients. This means calling their work “CBT” while actually not using the CBT framework. Instead, they drift into some kind of comfortable and supportive “talk therapy”.

Exposure Therapy and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

If you are researching PTSD treatment options and wondering if EMDR or CBT is best for you, there is another modality you should know about. A specialized form of trauma treatment, and one type of CBT, is call exposure therapy. This involves assisting trauma survivors in re-experiencing trauma-related memories and triggers. This re-experiencing helps patients process the traumatic memory through imagined confrontation with memories and real-life exposure to trauma reminders.

Typically, most trauma treatment exposure therapy takes place within the confines of institutions like the VA.  Again, mostly what I’ve seen in my practice is clients who did not want to participate in exposure based trauma treatment and preferred other modalities.

When asked about this, they explained to me that they found the modality “too overwhelming” and dropped out of treatment.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

EMDR has been specifically designed and researched as a treatment for PTSD. Based on the evidence of controlled research, several of our most prominent organizations have placed EMDR in the highest category of effectiveness for trauma treatment. These include:

  • American Psychiatric Association
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
  • U.S. Department of Defense

You can read more about what an EMDR therapy session is like here.

EMDR or CBT? What’s The Best PTSD Help For You?

When you think about treatment options for PTSD, do you feel overwhelmed? That’s understandable. You are welcome to read more hear about the EMDR, PTSD and Trauma Therapy I offer.

Call me today. I’m will do my best to recommend the best recovery action for you or your loved one to take.