The purpose of this reading is to understand Cognitive Processing Therapy. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy that helps patients learn how to modify and challenge unhelpful beliefs related to the trauma.

CPT is an effective form of treatment for PTSD that has developed after experiencing any traumatic event, such as, child abuse, combat, rape, and natural disasters. CPT is generally done over 12 sessions and helps patients learn how to challenge and modify unhelpful beliefs related to the trauma. In doing so, the patient creates a new understanding and conceptualization of the traumatic event so that it reduces its ongoing negative effects on current life.

First, the treatment begins with the patient learning about “automatic thoughts” that may contain the PTSD symptoms. The patient has to be educated on how their thoughts and emotions relate with each other. The patient will write an impact statement on why the event occurred and the impact it had on self, others, and world.

The next for the patient begins formal processing of the trauma. The patient has to write a detailed account of the traumatic event and the patient will read that aloud in order to face the thoughts and feelings associated with the traumatic event. The therapist will use Socratic questioning and many other techniques in order to help the patient question their unhelpful or negative thoughts, like self-blaming thoughts.

Lastly, after the patient has identified and can address unhelpful thinking, he/she will continue to use these skills in order to evaluate or modify beliefs that are related to traumatic events. The therapist is ultimately helping the patients to be able to use the adaptive strategies outside of treatment and to improve overall functioning. “Therapists may particularly focus on safety, trust, power, control, esteem and intimacy as these are all areas that can be affected by traumatic experiences (Monson)”.

CPT can be delivered individually or in group sessions. “Regardless of modality, patients will have out-of-session practice assignments. CPT was originally developed with the written trauma account as one component of treatment, but sometimes it is delivered without this and more emphasis is placed on cognitive techniques (Monson )”.


Monson, C.M., Resick, P.A., & Rizvi, S.L. (2014). Posttraumatic stress disorder. In D.H. Barlow (Ed.), Clinical handbook of psychological disorders (5th ed., pp. 80-113). New York, NY: Guilford Press.