Types of Trauma Treatment: Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE)
What is PE?
This well-researched treatment for PTSD serves to gradually and safely introduce a person to trauma-related thoughts, memories, and experiences that have been avoided due to fear. In PE, patients talk about their trauma and do things they have been avoiding repeatedly to allow for a process of “habituation” to occur - the goal being to learn over time that these experiences are no longer threatening or endangering.
The more the brain registers that the item, place, or memory approached repeatedly is no longer dangerous, the more one's fear reactions (physical sensations such as sweating or heart palpitations) reduce which can lead to engaging in aspects of life previously avoided. PE usually consists of the use of in-vivo (exercises involving confronting places, people, situations) and imaginal exposure (confronting traumatic memories by retelling the story containing avoided, painful memories).