Trauma Treatments

In all trauma treatments, informed consent is key. For many that have suffered a trauma or multiple complex traumas and are ready to begin treatment, they need to be fully aware of what the trauma treatment options are. Any treatment for trauma can be challenging and increase one’s natural anxiety level. Treatment occurs in the safety of a supportive clinical relationship with your trauma specialist and in a safe environment. Not everyone is ready to “work on their trauma” and may need more time in treatment to adequately prepare for the anxiety of confronting their fears. Your therapist will assess for trauma as well as PTSD to make a recommendation and review the treatment options. Everyone is ready at their own pace. Please note that all treatments for trauma typically request that appointments be longer than the standard clinical 45-minute session. The longer treatment time may not be covered by your insurance company. Please check with your therapist if cost is a factor in your choice of treatments. 


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a psychotherapy founded by Francine Shapiro, PhD in 1987 and is guided by the Adaptive Information Model. The Adaptive Information Model posits that the traumatic stress symptoms occur as the memory of the trauma was not adequately processed. The unprocessed memories create symptoms when activated based on what memory was left unprocessed. EMDR focuses directly on the memory and how it is stored in the brain.  Eye movements or other bilateral stimulation (i.e. light or hand tapping) are used to help the client begin to process the experience using similar biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. Research shows that EMDR is highly effective at alleviating symptoms for resulting from single-trauma such as a loss, sexual assault or rape, natural disaster, or combat veteran trauma. EMDR is typically provided as a form of individual therapy one to two times a week over the course of 6-12 sessions. Sessions typically last 90 minutes. 

DBT Prolonged Exposure

For some with PTSD, they may have other co-occurring diagnosis such as personality disorders, mood disorders such as depression or bipolar, substance abuse, and other eating disorders. Some have previously failed at other trauma-based treatment attempts due to these other co-occurring issues and present a high risk for suicide or significant deterioration if not stabilized prior to entering trauma treatment.  The DBT Prolonged Exposure (DBT PE) protocol for PTSD is based on the adaptation by Melanie Harned, PhD of Edna Foa’s initial prolonged exposure work to treat PTSD among those adults with complex trauma who are currently receiving DBT. This protocol allows these clients who may otherwise be poor candidates for trauma treatment to receive intensive stabilization that allows them access to treatment for their PTSD.  

Prolonged Exposure

Prolonged exposure is a specific type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy utilizing the principle of exposure as the primary intervention and technique. Exposure therapy is designed to help people who suffer from anxiety disorders. Patients are taught through exposure therapy to become less afraid or not afraid at all, of the memories, feelings, or situations related to their traumatic event. It is normal to become anxious when the fear is justified, when there is a real reason to not “put your hand on the stove as it will burn you” idea. However, trauma can teach us that it is safer to avoid the memories and anything that may remind us of the trauma, even though we are no longer in that unsafe situation. This may include numbing our emotions and not being able feel to feeling anxiety and fear on a daily basis, preventing you from living your life fully. There are many symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that your therapist can review with you to assist you in better understanding trauma and the effects trauma can have on you emotionally, behaviorally, and relationally. After the initial assessment, your therapist will explain the use of imaginal and in vivo exposure in your treatment. From there the patient works with the therapist at a safe graduated pace that increases exposure to the feared stimuli over time.

Prolonged exposure has been used for many years to treat PTSD that developed from a one-incident trauma and has been available for combat veterans. Prolonged Exposure (PE) is evidence-based to treat active PTSD symptoms and is typically provided over the course of 8-15 weekly sessions ranging from 60-120 minutes. The repeated exposure allows for the client to learn more about the trauma in a manner that will decrease their anxiety-based response to the memory, feelings, or situations of the trauma. This treatment offers hope for clients that there may be a period of their life where they will no longer meet the criteria for PTSD and suffer from the past. Prolonged Exposure is strongly recommended by the APA Clinical Practice guideline for the Treatment of PTSD.