The 6 Common Elements of Evidence-based Therapies for PTSD

There are numerous evidence-based treatments for PTSD that differ in their duration, number of sessions, and approaches to aspects of recovery, such as confronting threatening stimuli and re-processing traumatic events. The sheer number of approaches may leave clinicians and other trauma experts wondering what elements of PTSD treatment are essential for recovery. A collaboration by leading international PTSD experts, published recently in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology, has synthesised the diverse field of PTSD treatments with the goal of guiding clinicians and shaping the future of PTSD research.


The article aims to synthesise the diverse field of PTSD psychotherapy by highlighting the common and critical treatment components of evidence-based treatments, and features brief essays authored by pioneers in seven PTSD treatments: STAIR Narrative Therapy (Cloitre); Cognitive Therapy for PTSD (Ehlers); Narrative Exposure Therapy (Elbert, Schauer, Neunert); Prolonged Exposure Therapy (Foa); Brief Eclectic Psychotherapy for PTSD (Gersons); Cognitive Processing Therapy (Resick); and EMDR Therapy (Shapiro).


The six commonalities amongst evidence-based therapies identified by experts are:

  1. psychoeducation
  2. emotional regulation and coping skills
  3. some form of exposure to memories of traumatic experiences
  4. cognitive processing, restructuring, and/or meaning making
  5. tackling emotions
  6. altering memory processes.


While the field is indeed diverse, the article concludes that current empirically-supported psychotherapies for survivors of trauma have a great deal in common. The experts call for future research to address post-treatment residual symptoms and vulnerability to new traumatic events, greater understanding of the mechanisms of action within a therapy, treatments tailored to the needs of different patient groups, and greater understanding of the continuum of trauma care.


The full article can be accessed here.