Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD

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Updated 01/03/2023

Military service can affect veterans’ mental health and lead to PTSD, but treatment like CPT at The Recovery Village Columbus can help.

Many veterans are exposed to traumatic events as part of their service, which can significantly affect their mental health and lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Several different treatment options for PTSD exist, but one of the most successful is cognitive processing therapy (CPT). 

What Is Cognitive Processing Therapy?

Cognitive processing therapy is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that identifies how thought patterns relate to life experiences. By challenging unhelpful thoughts and correcting those that may get in the way of healing, CPT helps people re-evaluate their experiences with self-compassion. 

Processing life events in a safe setting and disputing underlying beliefs can heal and encourage greater peace. Developed in the 1980s, CPT is a 12-session, structured treatment model initially used to treat sexual assault victims. 

It starts with education about the treatment and what to expect. Therapists then ask their patients to write about the impact of their trauma and share it in follow-up sessions. CPT is effective for many treatment needs, including:

  • Veterans
  • PTSD survivors
  • Torture victims
  • Abuse victims
  • Refugees
  • Addiction
  • Panic disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD in Veterans

Veterans and those with PTSD can benefit from CPT. When veterans return to their military service or other careers without treating their PTSD, it can result in overwhelmed, multi-trauma lifestyles. Many veterans with PTSD struggle with emotional health and are still trying to keep up with work demands. 

When traumatic events occur, the aftermath can cause ongoing psychological and physical challenges such as:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Flashbacks
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Mood dysregulation
  • Feeling on edge or startling easily
  • Irritability
  • Concentration problems

PTSD can impact relationships, work life and one’s coping ability. Cognitive processing therapy can help by sharing thoughts and feelings that may contribute to these symptoms. It can help people develop a new framework for their experiences and learn new ways of thinking about their symptoms. 

Cognitive Processing Therapy for Co-Occurring PTSD and  Addiction

When left untreated, people who experience PTSD due to trauma may resort to alcohol or drug use to escape the discomfort. Cognitive processing therapy helps people struggling with addiction to address underlying causes, including the thoughts and feelings that may perpetuate use. 

Many veterans struggle with alcohol and drug abuse. A recent report cites that 25% of veterans have had difficulties with drug use and 80% with alcohol use. Substance use may temporarily disconnect a person from their thoughts and feelings but lead to greater problems in the long term. 

CPT Treatment for Veterans

The FORTITUDE program is ready to help veterans manage trauma, PTSD and substance use disorder. This specialty track was developed to meet the specific needs of veterans who have struggled with substance use, trauma and other co-occurring mental health conditions. 

With evidenced-based treatment options, including cognitive processing therapy, FORTITUDE can help the following populations:

  • Wartime veterans
  • Combat veterans
  • Active duty veterans
  • Disabled veterans
  • Recently separated veterans
  • Retired veterans

There is no need to face addiction or trauma alone. If you or a loved one is a veteran who could use the support of the FORTITUDE program, reach out today.

Veteran Recovery Is Our Mission

Our Veteran Advocates can help you navigate your VA health insurance and get you the help you need. At The Recovery Village Columbus, our FORTITUDE specialty track for veterans and first responders offers:

  • Exclusive group therapy sessions with your peers
  • Experienced clinicians trained in military culture and veteran-specific care
  • Dual diagnosis to treat addiction and mental health disorders together  
  • EMDR: A revolutionary treatment that alleviates trauma symptoms

View Sources

American Psychological Association. “Cognitive Processing Therapy.”July 31, 2017. Accessed November 7, 2021.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT).” Accessed November 7, 2021.

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. “Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD.” National Center for PTSD, January 10, 2020. Accessed November 7, 2021.

National Institute of Mental Health. “What is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD?” 2020. Accessed November 7, 2021.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration “2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Veteran Adults.” September 2020. Accessed March 8, 2023.

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