Who Can Benefit From Trauma Therapy?

DBT Trauma Therapy

Many persons with a history of trauma or diagnosed PTSD fail to receive effective treatment. One reason is the high co-morbidity of PTSD with other disorders- which means people with PTSD are often struggling with other issues. These issues can include suicidal thoughts or attempts, difficulty controlling emotions, substance abuse, relationship problems, and other issues that may be well addressed by DBT.

  • Among those who have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), up to 79% of individuals also have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Individuals with both BPD and PTSD are at a high risk for suicide, with rates of suicide attempts two to five times higher than those with BPD or PTSD alone.

  • Research has shown that the presence of PTSD has been found to increase emotion dysregulation in those with BPD, and when left untreated, PTSD increases the risk of suicidal and self-injurious behaviors while also interfering with recovery.

  • Several studies have concluded that DBT Prolonged Exposure (PE) is more effective than DBT alone in managing symptoms of both PTSD and BPD with better outcomes one year after treatment

  • Research has shown DBT-PE is safe and effective at reducing PTSD symptoms, suicidal and self-injurious behaviors, dissociation, shame, guilt, depression, and social impairment.

By combining DBT with PTSD treatment, DBT-PE addresses all the issues together in a complimentary way. Our DBT-PE sessions are run by trained dialectical behavior therapy, trauma, and borderline personalty disorder therapists.

Learn more about PTSD and Trauma.


What is DBT-PE?

DBT Trauma Treatment

DBT-PE combines Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) with a technique called Prolonged Exposure (PE), a treatment for trauma. It is a multi-stage process.

  • Stage 1: Dialectical Behavior Therapy

    • In this stage, the client receives DBT therapy. This stage may last several months before the client is able to proceed to the next stage.

  • Stage 2: Dialectical Behavior Therapy with Prolonged Exposure

    • In this stage, the client continues to practice their DBT skills.

    • A trauma treatment technique called Prolonged exposure (PE) is introduced to address PTSD symptoms. There are several substages.

      • Pre-exposure (2-3 Weeks): This phase introduces the concepts of PE, and prepares the client to practice PE.

      • Exposure (8+ Weeks): In this phase, clients practice PE. The length of this phase varies greatly, depending on the needs of the client. It generally lasts at least 8 weeks.

      • Consolidation and Relapse Prevention (1-2 Weeks): In this phase, strategies for relapse prevention are emphasized. At this point, the client should be experiencing minimal PTSD related symptoms.

  • Stage 3: Dialectical Behavior Therapy

    • In this stage, the client returns to regular DBT.

What is Prolonged Exposure?

Prolonged Exposure (PE) is an effective treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The basic idea underlying exposure therapies is that repeated exposure to the thoughts, feelings, and situations around a trauma memory reduces the distress around the memory. Most people that experience a trauma avoid things that remind them of the trauma, but this prevents them from learning that the danger has passed.

The client in Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy first learns some skills to handle distressing situations. Then, they are "exposed" to trauma-related memories, situations, and sensations. It can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, but the exposures are introduced gradually and with the support of the therapist, and the client should never feel overwhelmed. With time, the client finds they experience less distress when recalling their traumatic experiences. The clients "learn" that the things they previously avoided are, in fact, not dangerous. As this occurs, the other symptoms of PTSD tend to reduce as well.