Trauma expert Edna Foa of the University of Pennsylvania, pioneered the use of prolonged exposure therapy in which patients approach -- in both imaginary and real-life settings -- situations, places, and people they have been avoiding. The repeated exposure to the perceived threat denies individuals' expectations of experiencing harm and, over time, leads to a reduction in their fear.
Foa, Seth Gillihan of Haverford College in Pennsylvania and Richard Bryant of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, reviewed studies describing interventions that can effectively treat PTSD.
The researchers found prolonged exposure therapy and other forms of cognitive behavioral therapy proved highly effective in addressing the distress and dysfunctional problems that trauma victims experience.
However, they also found the majority of mental health professionals did not use such evidence-based treatments when working with patients suffering from PTSD.
Instead, many clinicians are using individualized psychotherapy which focuses on the underlying causes of one's problems and symptoms. But studies show scant evidence that psychodynamic therapy -- which focuses on such issues as difficult childhood relationship with parents -- effectively eases PTSD symptoms, the researchers found.
The findings were published in the Psychological Science in the Public Interest.