Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) is an evidence-based therapy designed to treat PTSD. PE assists individuals approach trauma-related symptoms while reducing engagement in avoidance and increasing feelings of accomplishment. Treatment consists of 8-15, 90-minute sessions, usually on a weekly basis.




PE is a trauma-focused therapy that assists patients actively work on controlling symptoms even those with complicated presentationsincluding comorbidities such as substance use disorder. PE promotes the emotional processing of the trauma memory through a systematic approach consisting of four components.


1. Psychoeducation: the purpose of PE is for patients to understand what is maintaining their symptoms. Education is focused on the role of avoidance and negative beliefs and the common reactions to trauma.
2. Breathing retraining: Important skill to assist with management of symptoms and to increase relaxation.
3. In-Vivo Exposure: Engagement in low-risk behaviors that have been avoided after the trauma. Many people who experience a trauma also try to avoid thoughts and feeling associated to the event. Therefore, approaching situations, people, conversations, and places will assist with decreasing engagement in avoidance and learning to control symptoms.
4. Imaginal Exposure: Revisiting the memory helps toemotionally process the traumatic experience and make sense of it. Patients learn that thinking about the trauma is not dangerous and they are able manage the distress and feel better about themselves.


In addition, participation in PE assists with improvement of depression, anxiety, anger, guilt, and shame. For patients who present emotional regulation difficulties and require stabilization prior to engaging in trauma-focused therapy, the DBT Prolonged Exposure Protocol can assist. Information about the DBT Prolonged Exposure Protocol can be found in the next blog publication.




PE is one of the most researched therapies for PTSD. It has been studied in over 20 randomized clinical trials with more in progress. Meta-analyses suggest that PE produces large treatment effects in regard to reduction of trauma-related symptoms. In addition, studies have found that participation in treatment assists with improvement in symptoms in 80-90% of patients who complete treatment.




Trauma will affect your overall quality of life. You may notice that your relationships are suffering, your interests are diminishing, and you are not the person you once were. If you believe that PE is a good fit for you and you are motivated on working to improving and controlling your symptoms, please contact us to schedule your intake.


205 S. Hoover Blvd. Ste 202
Tampa, FL 33609
(813) 563-1155

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