Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

The information in this program outline is provided by the program representative and edited by the CEBC staff. This program has been rated by the CEBC in the following Topic Areas:

1  — Well-Supported by Research Evidence
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About This Program

Target Population: Adults who have experienced a traumatic event and are currently suffering from the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or meet criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD

Brief Description

CPT was originally developed for use with rape and crime victims, but it is used with a variety of trauma populations, including both military and civilian samples. CPT focuses on identifying and challenging maladaptive beliefs that develop about, and as a result of, the traumatic event. The therapist helps the client to identify problem areas (i.e., stuck points) in their thinking about the traumatic event, which have impeded their recovery. Therapists then use Socratic dialogue, a form of questioning that encourages clients to examine and evaluate their own beliefs rather than being told in a directive way, to help clients challenge their stuck points. Throughout the treatment, worksheets and Socratic dialogue are used to help clients replace maladaptive beliefs with more balanced alternative statements. CPT can be delivered individually or in a group format.

Note: When CPT was originally developed and for many years after that, it included a trauma narrative as part of the intervention. Since 2011, a number of research studies using CPT without the trauma narrative (known as CPT-C) have been published. In 2017, the developer of CPT made the decision to no longer include the trauma narrative as part its intervention as the primary therapy format (the exceptions are if the clients want to write an account or if they are highly dissociative to piece together the event). Research is being conducted on both versions of the therapy but there is more on CPT than CPT+A (with accounts).

Program Goals:

The goals of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) are:

  • Increase understanding of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how it affects life
  • Accept the reality of the traumatic event
  • Feel emotions about the traumatic event and reduce avoidance
  • Develop balanced and realistic beliefs about the event, oneself, others, and the world
  • Decrease the emotions that emanate from maladaptive beliefs about the event (e.g., guilt, shame, anger)
  • Decrease symptoms of PTSD and depression
  • Improve day-to-day living

Contact Information

Patricia A. Resick, PhD, ABPP
Agency/Affiliation: Duke University

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: February 2018

Last CEBC Contact Date: August 2017

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: August 2017

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: June 2013