Prolonged Exposure Therapy for PTSD for Adults (PE)

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Scientific Rating:
Well-Supported by Research Evidence
See scale of 1-5
Child Welfare System Relevance Level:
See descriptions of 3 levels

About This Program

The information in this program outline is provided by the program representative and edited by the CEBC staff. Prolonged Exposure Therapy for PTSD for Adults (PE) has been rated by the CEBC in the area of: Trauma Treatment (Adult).

Target Population: Adults with a variety of traumas such as combat, sexual assault, car accidents, violent crimes, and acts of terrorism

Brief Description

PE consists of 8 -15 treatment sessions that are 60-90 minutes each. Clients are encouraged to repeatedly approach situations or activities they are avoiding because they remind them of their trauma (in vivo exposure) as well as to revisit the traumatic memory through retelling it (imaginal exposure). Psychoeducation about common reactions to trauma as well as breathing retraining exercises are also included in the treatment. The aim of in vivo and imaginal exposure is to help clients emotionally process their traumatic memories through the imaginal and in vivo exposures. Through these procedures, clients learn that they can safely remember the trauma and experience trauma reminders, that the distress that initially resulted from confrontations with these reminders decreases over time, and that they are capable of tolerating this distress. Prolonged Exposure Therapy for Adolescents (PE-A) is also highlighted on the CEBC website in the Trauma Treatment - Client-Level Interventions (Child & Adolescent) topic area, please click here to see that entry.

Program Goals:

The overall goals of Prolonged Exposure Therapy for PTSD for Adults (PE) are:

  • Promote the clients’ ability to emotionally process their traumatic experiences
  • Diminish PTSD and other trauma-related symptoms including depression, general anxiety, anger, and guilt
  • Improve social functioning and physical health

Contact Information

Name: Sandy Capaldi, PsyD
Agency/Affiliation: Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety, University of Pennsylvania
Phone: (215) 746-5705
Fax: (215) 746-3311

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: August 2016

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: August 2016

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: July 2013