Why it's time to start CPT in trauma therapy

November 27, 2022

Most people have experienced at least one trauma in their life. Cognitive processing therapy can be a helpful in means of moving forward from a traumatic event.

You’ve noticed that you have black-and-white views of the world 

Values are kind of a funny thing. Every person is raised to have different sets based on their experiences, family, culture, community, and sometimes religion. These values often dictate our choices like who we spend time with, the decisions we make, and even the careers we chose. A value that many people are raised within western culture is that “good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people.” This value is typically taught to us when we’re very young, and usually with good intentions. Many parents want to instill intrinsic motivation in their children, so they do good things for the sake of being good. 

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However, this value doesn’t always stand true as we grow up. Most people can agree that they’re a good person, but bad things have happened to them at some point. So, operating from a values perspective, does that automatically mean they’re a bad person? Probably not. But operating from the black-and-white perspective of “good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people”, that’s a conclusion that many people come to. Too often, people will believe that they did something to deserve the bad thing that happened. Objectively, we can see how that doesn’t add up. However, it doesn’t always seem that obvious after you have a traumatic experience.

Black and white values lead to stuck points 

Stuck points are exactly what they sound like: feeling stuck after something happens and not being able to move on. Stuck points usually manifest as the rules we live by. For example, a common stuck point someone has after a negative experience with a man is “all men are bad.” We can see how this is very general and inflexible and doesn’t reflect every man on the planet. However, traumatic experiences can lead us to feel stuck with thoughts like this. These stuck points tend to determine how we live our lives and can influence many choices we make. Another common stuck point is “this (insert traumatic experience) happened because I deserved it.

Then rolls in the anxiety and depression 

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Feeling like we deserved the traumatic experience can cause significant anxiety and depression, among other negative experiences. Often, people can experience ruminating thoughts and hypervigilance that don’t go away. On top of that, depression can significantly impact the way that we think and feel about ourselves. You may notice that your mood is much lower, along with your energy. In terms of thoughts, symptoms of depression and anxiety can confirm the negative thoughts we have. CPT can help with this.

What is CPT?

CPT, or cognitive processing therapy, is a form of trauma therapy. CPT aims to help people move forward after a traumatic experience. CPT helps someone identify what beliefs they developed or reinforced after experiencing trauma. It also helps to identify different emotions that are experienced, including natural and manufactured emotions. Natural emotions are emotions that “make sense” after an event. Manufactured emotions are emotions that “don’t make sense” after an event. These emotions are not about the event, but instead about us or our involvement in the situation. A common manufactured emotion is to feel responsible or guilty for something that they shouldn’t. Additionally, CPT can assist with identifying trust issues with yourself and other people.

CPT for trauma can help to add a grey area 

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If it’s believed that we deserved something bad that happened to us based on a black-and-white value, it’s time to address that. CPT is designed to add flexibility to our values and help them reflect our life. As we go through life, we can acknowledge that many things happen that are out of our control. Trauma included. But too often, the stories we tell ourselves don’t include this. By looking critically at our values, we can see where we can add another definition that reflects what’s happened in our lives.

On top of that, CPT can teach you how to be your trauma therapist. 

CPT incorporates challenging questions to ask yourself when you feel stuck. CPT first starts to help identify the stuck points we feel after experiencing a traumatic experience. From there, challenging questions are brought in to help you break down some of the stuck points you struggle with. Here are a few challenging questions that are asked in CPT:

- What tells me this stuck point is true?

- What tells me this stuck point is false?

- Is this thought base on habit or fact?

- What information am I missing?

This is only a short list of the questions that are included in the challenging questions that are covered in CPT. Overall, CPT is one of the most effective forms of trauma therapy that can help alleviate the aftermath of trauma.

Begin trauma therapy in St. Louis, MO 

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CPT can help you move forward from traumatic experiences. Our trauma therapists can offer online trauma therapy for CPT or in our St. Louis, MO-based counseling practice. When you’re ready to begin trauma therapy in St. Louis, MO, follow these steps:

  1. Schedule an appointment
  2. Get to know our team of therapists. 
  3. Learn the skills to move forward from your trauma.