Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): Everything You Need to Know

CPT co-developer Dr. Kate Chard answers the most frequently asked questions on Cognitive Processing Therapy

Kathleen M. Chard, Ph.D.

Cognitive Processing Therapy is a game changer in trauma treatment. With over 20 clinical trials now and growing, CPT is as big of a revolution as EMDR was in the 1980s. CPT not only helps people recover from acute, development and complex PTSD, but it does so faster and with lower drop-out rates than other treatments. And unlike EMDR, Prolonged Exposure, and Somatic therapies, CPT is the only PTSD treatment that isn’t based on exposure therapy.

What is Cognitive Processing Therapy?

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a type of psychotherapy that is primarily used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related symptoms. It is an evidence-based treatment approach that focuses on helping individuals understand and change the negative thoughts and beliefs they may have following a traumatic event.

CPT is rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) principles and aims to address the way individuals interpret and make sense of their traumatic experiences. It operates on the premise that the thoughts and beliefs individuals develop about themselves, others, and the world after a traumatic event can contribute to their emotional distress and interfere with their ability to recover.

How long does CPT take?

CPT is typically conducted over a specific number of sessions, often ranging from 12 to 16, although the duration can vary based on individual needs. The goal of CPT is to reduce PTSD symptoms, improve overall functioning, and facilitate the individual's ability to integrate the traumatic experience into their life narrative in a way that promotes resilience and growth.

CPT Process

During CPT, individuals work closely with a trained therapist to identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts and beliefs related to the traumatic event. The therapy typically involves the following key components:
  1. Education: The therapist provides information about common reactions to trauma and explains the CPT treatment process.
  2. Developing a trauma narrative: The individual is encouraged to recount the details of the traumatic event(s) and express their thoughts and emotions associated with it.
  3. Identifying thoughts and beliefs: The therapist helps the individual identify and examine the thoughts and beliefs they hold about the traumatic event, themselves, and the world.
  4. Challenging and modifying thoughts: Through a systematic process, the therapist assists the individual in evaluating the accuracy and helpfulness of their thoughts and beliefs. They work together to develop more adaptive and realistic ways of thinking.
  5. Enhancing coping skills: CPT also focuses on teaching individuals various coping strategies and skills to manage distressing emotions, improve problem-solving abilities, and promote overall well-being.

To help you learn more about CPT, we’ve enlisted the help of Dr. Kathleen M. Chard, a co-developer of CPT. In the videos below, Dr. Chard walks you step-by-step through exactly what you need to know to make CPT therapy successful with your clients from start to finish.

What does CPT look like in-session?

Who is CPT for?

Does CPT require a trauma narrative?

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) vs. EMDR

Does a client have to be stable to begin CPT?

Modifying CPT for Children

Using Cognitive Processing Therapy as a trauma therapy

How to get trained in Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

Using Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

Homework and its impact on the effectiveness of CPT

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) Trainings
The Brainbow Blueprint
For the first time ever, Dr. Kate Chard, PhD and co-developer of Cognitive Processing Therapy, has recorded her official 2-day training – the one she has taught to thousands of clinicians internationally and at the US Department of Veterans Affairs – in a convenient on-demand format. Through this training, you'll discover a new way to treat trauma that gets started in the very first session.

Register today, and you’ll not only get LIVE Q&A calls with Dr. Kate Chard but also a copy of the Cognitive Processing Therapy Treatment Manual, FREE!
Meet the Expert:
Kathleen M. Chard, PhD, is a co-developer of CPT and director of the Trauma Recovery Center at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center. Serving as the VA CPT Implementation Director, Dr. Chard oversees the dissemination of CPT to mental health clinicians across the United States. She is the co-author of Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD: A Comprehensive Model (The Guilford Press, 2017) and author of CPT for Sexual Abuse Treatment Manual (2012).

Learn more about her educational products, including upcoming live seminars, by clicking here.

Topic: Cognitive Processing Therapy

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