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Prolonged Exposure



At St. Louis DBT, we use Prolonged Exposure (PE) in the context of DBT.  St. Louis DBT therapists have post-graduate training in PE.  This therapy helps you experience your emotions and move through them more quickly, rather getting stuck in them and having them control your behavior and thoughts.

Basically, prolonged exposure involves facing your fears through incremental steps.  We use PE after clients have some control over their self-harming and suicidal urges.

Many clients who come to St. Louis DBT have experienced either “Big T” trauma (e.g., rape, domestic violence, childhood sexual abuse, combat, assault) or “Little t” trauma (e.g., a lifetime of invalidation) or both.  We use PE to treat both.

Prolonged Exposure

Scientifically-based and highly effective treatment for chronic PTSD and related depression, anxiety, and anger.  It is scientifically validated with more than 20 years of research supporting its use

Based on basic cognitive-behavioral principals.  By taking concrete behavioral steps toward facing your feared emotions, you are desensitized to the emotions and they have less control over you.

A flexible therapy that can be modified to fit the needs of individual clients

Designed to help clients process traumatic events and reduce trauma-induced psychological disturbances

Results focused.  PE is a treatment that produces clinically significant improvement in about 80% of patients with chronic PTSD

Benefits of Prolonged Exposure

Numerous well-controlled studies have shown that PE significantly reduces the symptoms of PTSD, depression, anger, and anxiety in trauma survivors. PE also is beneficial for those suffering from co-occurring PTSD and substance abuse when combined with substance abuse treatment.

In addition to reducing symptoms of PTSD, PE instills confidence and a sense of mastery, improves various aspects of daily functioning, increases client’s ability to cope with courage rather than fearfulness when facing stress, and improves their ability to discriminate safe and unsafe situations.

PE was developed by Edna Foa, PhD, Director of the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania. Learn more.

* Adapted from  Department of Psychiatry, Penn Behavioral Health, Center for the Study and Treatment of Anxiety.


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