Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a profound psychological response to traumatic events. While individuals may grapple with a range of symptoms and emotions, effective treatment is available. Evidence-based treatment often leads to recovery — but how long it takes to achieve this milestone varies based on a few key factors.
Every person's journey with PTSD is unique. The nature and intensity of the trauma(s), and one’s coping mechanisms and support systems, and current circumstances, can all influence a person’s recovery. However, this does not mean that PTSD needs to last a lifetime or that recovering from PTSD needs to take years. Rather, PTSD is a recoverable illness with many effective treatments. These evidence-based treatments for PTSD take about 2-4 months to complete and can lead to permanent recovery.
Therapies designed specifically for PTSD range in their total duration, but are generally delivered 1-2 times per week:
An emerging and transformative approach is massed treatment. Unlike traditional weekly therapy sessions, massed treatment involves intensive daily sessions that can lead to trauma recovery in as little as 10 to 12 days.. This approach not only results in faster recovery, but has also been shown to yield better treatment outcomes. By immersing oneself in the therapeutic process without extended breaks, individuals often experience more cohesive and accelerated healing. Additionally, studies show that massed treatment is effective among survivors who have experienced PTSD symptoms for decades
While massed treatment offers robust benefits, traditional therapy frequencies may work better for some individual’s schedules. Although CPT and PE treatment protocols encourage twice weekly therapy, once weekly sessions are often standard in the community due to therapist availability. Assuming an average of 12 sessions for any trauma therapy protocol, a survivor can expect to complete PTSD treatment in approximately 3 months.
Therapy is not always a linear journey. When completing trauma therapy, expect breakthroughs and plateaus. Many find the first few sessions to be emotionally-taxing, as they recall details about their trauma that they have avoided for quite some time. This is normal and to be expected. Much like healing from a physical wound, there can be setbacks, but with consistent tending to the wound, improvement is inevitable.
Overcoming PTSD through therapy is deeply personal. While evidence-based therapies offer general timelines, factors like massed treatment, session frequency, comorbidities, and individual nuances can influence how long it takes to achieve recovery from PTSD. With effective treatments and personal commitment, healing is well within reach.
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