Conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder usually take 15 to 20 sessions for 50% of patients to feel an improvement. People treated with cognitive behavioral therapy have been found to report feeling better after around 10 to 20 sessions. Trauma therapy often takes longer if you have experienced multiple cases of abuse. This includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and chronic physical or emotional neglect.
How long will trauma therapy last? The main consideration in answering this question is how much preparatory work you and I decide is necessary before we begin to address the trauma itself. This usually ranges from a few weeks to 3-4 months. I want you to have the skills necessary to work on trauma, to thoroughly understand PTSD, and to feel safe from trauma therapy before you start. The amount of time this takes generally depends on your history and life experience.
The decision about when you are ready to start working specifically on trauma will be made together in therapy. The cognitive processing therapy program (mentioned above) usually lasts 12 weeks, so the CPT plus preparatory work will probably take 3.5 to 7 months. While that may seem like a significant investment of time, consider how long you've been experiencing symptoms and then decide how much time you're willing to spend feeling better. Therapy programs such as STAIR, ACT and DBT, described below, can help you prepare for more intensive trauma therapy.
That's why you need to start with a therapist who understands traumatic work and can guide you through it safely. It's hard work and it's critical that it be carried out in a safe and comfortable environment with an experienced, well-trained therapist. This program can help develop or recover useful skills to control some symptoms of PTSD without performing specific traumatic work. But don't those attacks already occur outside of therapy? Understandably, people who have experienced trauma want, perhaps more than anything else, to pretend that the trauma never occurred.
If you decide to do it in residential treatment, you'll likely be assigned to a therapist who specializes in traumatology, someone who truly understands the process and can guide you safely. This is a very difficult question to answer, because each person is different, each person's story is different, and each person's trauma is “trapped in a unique way”. I'll work with you to help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings about trauma and how they're related. While healing is a lifelong journey for many, most don't work with a therapist for extended periods of time.
In addition, every therapy session must be done with care and kindness, and that requires a lot of nuances on the part of the therapist. However, the ACT, as it applies to PTSD, also includes the idea that we will have to accept the reality of the trauma (instead of trying to act as if it never happened) and allow ourselves to feel the associated emotions (instead of ignoring painful feelings) as we move forward with our lives in the present. Despite the difficulties of childhood trauma, the mental health community has learned a great deal about how to deal with it effectively and compassionately. Since child trauma work can cause feelings of shame and self-harm, the therapist will only guide you to the next phase of treatment when you are sure you are prepared because, above all, their goal is to keep you safe.