I don't remember seeing anything about this on Jez at the time this story was reported and I thought people might find it interesting. The other day I had the opportunity to get a close up view of a brief, effective treatment for PTSD called cognitive processing therapy (CPT). There is a lot of pretty convincing evidence for its effectiveness in treating different kinds of posttraumatic stress and survivors of rape in particular. (There have been articles in JAMA, New England Journal of Medicine and whatnot as well as others but the cites are down in my car.) It was designed for veterans but there have been equally good results with rape victims and people who survived childhood abuse.

It is a 12 session manualized (meaning with a specific format) treatment that does involve a lot of writing and homework. I personally hate homework-based treatments and I'm not the biggest fan of cognitive-behavioral therapy—but as with anything the amount of effort you put into it makes a big difference in terms of the outcomes you're going to get. In this case it seems extremely worthwhile. There are two versions of the protocol, one in which you write a "trauma narrative" describing what happened to you, and one in which you don't actually have to do that (though you do have to be willing to talk about what happened with the therapist). Turns out they are both equally effective. People's PTSD diagnoses remit and the treatment effects last five years out.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect was that one of the studies demonstrating its effectiveness was done in the Congo, with women living in an active war zone who'd been raped as part of the ongoing hostilities in that country. (The conventional wisdom has been that PTSD can't be treated until the trauma is over and the victim is safe.) They participated in group treatment delivered by local people trained by the psychologists who designed the study. As the linked article above mentions, the people who were trained to render the treatment in these Congolese villages had basically a high school education. That's pretty humbling, actually. And encouraging in the sense that it means that not only can the treatment can be effective for people living in the more persistently violent areas of our own country, but also in different parts of the world plagued by conflict (that don't rely on such rigorous credentialing processes for mental health providers at least).

Honestly I am not sure how widely available it is at this point. It is one of the "approved" trauma treatments offered by the VA and is in the process of getting rolled out in a variety of community mental health settings (Missouri, I think, and Texas as well as some places in California).

I know a lot of us are living with some form of posttraumatic stress. For people whose symptoms rise to the level of a diagnosable disorder this treatment has a strong potential to be helpful. Like anything it's effective for some people, some of the time—but 12 weeks! It seems quite miraculous. I personally find it very life-affirming and hopeful that powerful treatments with demonstrated effectiveness exist for people that need them and I wanted to share that.

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