CT is a therapeutic intervention derived from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and is based on the idea that our thoughts affect our emotions. Therefore, by modifying our thinking and behavioural patterns, we can improve our mood.
What does it look like?
With the aim of improving our mood, CT seeks to challenge maladaptive and unhelpful thinking and behavioural patterns and replace them with more adaptive and helpful thinking and behavioural patterns. In the context of trauma, this can look like identifying negative evaluations of a traumatic event, and traumatic memories themselves, that may be exaggerating current feelings of fear and threat. To challenge our maladaptive and unhelpful thinking patterns, CT can involve recognising common errors in our thinking, using Socratic questioning to analyse our thoughts, or creating a behavioural experiment to test whether the predicted negative consequence occurs.
This approach can help you arrive at a different evaluation of the traumatic event. This can then be integrated with the traumatic memories/cues by writing or thinking about the new evaluation while remembering the traumatic memory or cue or reliving the traumatic experience using an imaginal approach. It can also be done by writing a comprehensive account of the traumatic event or by visiting the location where the trauma occurred while challenging thoughts in the moment. Your psychologist will also help you to reduce or stop behaviours that may be maintaining your symptoms, and these can include behaviours like rumination, safety-seeking behaviours and thought suppression. CT is typically provided over 5-20 weekly or fortnightly 50-minute sessions (or however many sessions you require), which include homework tasks, and can be used in combination with other interventions.
How effective is it?
CT is a well-established therapy that is highly effective and recommended for PTSD. It is an evidence-based way to break free from the fear and anxiety associated with traumatic memories.