Prolonged Exposure (PE) is based on the theory that PTSD is maintained when individuals avoid thoughts and memories of the trauma as well as people, places, activities, and situations that are associated with the trauma. For this reason, this treatment focuses on helping individuals approach trauma-related memories and situations that have been avoided. Through repeated exposure, the distress that they cause decreases and symptoms of PTSD improve.
PE is a CBT-oriented therapy program for individuals with PTSD that typically consists of approximately 8-12 sessions, most of which are 90 minutes. Therapy begins with education about trauma and PTSD. The individual is then guided through exposure to real-world situations that are safe, but have been avoided, as well as to memories of the trauma itself. This process allows the client to take control of thoughts and feelings about the trauma.