245 Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Based on research by: Schnurr, Paula P., Friedman, M. J., Engel, C. C., Foa, E. B., Shea, M. T., Chow, B. K., … & Turner, C. (2007). Written by: Mara Rowcliffe, MS

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) causes much pain for veterans as well as for victims of violence in our society, However, there are effective psychological treatments.

Psychologist Paula Schnurr evaluated the effects of Prolonged Exposure Therapy a form of cognitive and behavior therapy where a client re-experiences the trauma by remembering or sharing it but not avoiding the memory, or what ‘triggers’ the trauma memory. They randomly assigned 277 female veterans previously diagnosed with PTSD (70% had military sexual trauma) to 10-weekly 90 minute sessions of either prolonged exposure or present-centered supportive therapy.

Results indicated that women who received prolonged exposure experienced a greater decrease in PTSD symptoms compared to women who received present-centered supportive therapy.  Results persisted over time and showed that prolonged exposure group was more likely to no longer meet diagnostic criteria for PTSD. Conclusion? For 46% of female veterans having prolonged exposure therapy, they no longer were diagnosed PTSD after 6 months.

If you or a friend are interested in treatment for PTSD, find a mental health provider that is experienced using cognitive behavior therapy techniques and ensures that the treatment you receive is backed by research and has been shown to be effective.


Schnurr, P. P., Friedman, M. J., Engel, C. C., Foa, E. B., Shea, M. T., Chow, B. K., … & Turner, C. (2007). Cognitive behavioral therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder in women: A randomized controlled trial. Jama, 297(8), 820-830.

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