Prolonged Exposure is a specific type of Exposure Therapy that was developed to treat Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Prolonged Exposure targets problematic avoidance that keeps you from processing trauma and living your life. Often with trauma, people push away memories or other reminders of the traumatic event(s). While this helps you feel more calm and safe in the moment, it unfortunately keeps you from tapping into your own healing potential that could be used to overcome PTSD. The more you avoid, the more stuck you can become in your recovery process. Prolonged Exposure will involve gradually approaching distressing memories and situations so that you can become unstuck.
There are two main paths toward healing that are used in Prolonged Exposure. On one of these paths, you will talk about the trauma in the presence of your therapist. In the other, you will approach situations or reminders of the trauma in your life outside of therapy. Both of these paths are taken with the guidance of your therapist. And before you begin, you and your therapist will discuss the order of these steps so that you can approach less distressing situations first before moving onto more challenging ones. Throughout the therapy process, you will be in control and will never be forced to do something for which you are not ready. While this may sound scary, for those who do make the commitment to enter and stick with treatment, results can be dramatic. Some of the most common things therapists are told during Prolonged Exposure are, “That wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” “I can’t believe I was able to do that,” and “I’m so glad to be getting my life back so quickly.”