Prolonged Exposure (PE)

What is Prolonged Exposure (PE)?

PE is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) intervention based on the idea that, with gradual but repeated exposure to a traumatic memory, feeling or situation, the fight-flight-freeze response will eventually subside.

What does it look like?

With the aim of reducing or removing the fight-flight-freeze response, PE seeks to gradually, but repeatedly, expose us to the trauma-related memory, feeling or situation until the anxiety/fear subsides or until we learn that trauma-related cues are not dangerous and do not need to be avoided. Exposure tasks start easy, and progressively get more and more difficult, but it is important to remember that you are in the driver’s seat and the task is supposed to be set up to be a success.

Tasks can involve in vivo exposures (exposures conducted in real life), imaginal exposures (exposures conducted in the imagination), virtual reality exposures (exposures conducted in virtual reality), interoceptive exposures (exposures that purposefully bring on physiological sensations) and/or thought exposures (exposures that purposefully bring up difficult thoughts). PE is typically provided over 5-20 weekly or fortnightly 50-minute sessions (or however many sessions you require), which include exposure homework tasks, and can be used in combination with other interventions.

How effective is it?

PE 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, feelings, or situations.