Cognitive Proccessing Therapy (CPT)

CPT provides a way to understand why recovery from traumatic events is difficult and how symptoms of PTSD affect daily life. The focus is on identifying how traumatic experiences change thoughts and beliefs, and how thoughts influence current feelings and behaviours. An important part of the treatment is addressing ways of thinking that might keep individuals “stuck” and get in the way of recovery from symptoms of PTSD and other problems. 

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a cognitive-behavioural therapy (treatment that focuses on thoughts and feelings) for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, and related conditions. PTSD can develop when an individual experiences a traumatic event such as physical and sexual abuse or assault, accidents, threats, military combat, or being a witness to violence or death. CPT focuses on the connections between thoughts, feelings, behaviour and bodily sensations. CPT is an evidenced based therapy which means that it has been proven to be effective through rigorous scientific research.

What Happens in CPT?

CPT lasts for 12 therapy sessions (50 minutes each) during which individuals will:

  • Get information on common reactions to trauma
  • Identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts with structured therapy sessions
  • Complete regular out-of-session practice assignments to apply what has been discussed in therapy sessions

Topics Covered During CPT

  • The meaning of the traumatic event(s)
  • Identification of thoughts and feelings
  • Trust issues
  • Safety issues
  • Issues of power and control
  • Esteem issues
  • Intimacy issues

Goals of CPT

  • Improve understanding of PTSD
  • Reduce distress about memories of the trauma
  • Decrease emotional numbing (i.e., difficulty feeling feelings) and avoidance of trauma reminders
  • Reduce feelings of being tense or “on edge”
  • Decrease depression, anxiety, guilt or shame
  • Improve day-to-day living
Content reference:

About CPT | Cognitive Processing Therapy. (2020). Retrieved 28 December 2020, from

Video graphic reference: Veterans Health Administration (
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