Prolonged Exposure therapy (PE) is a highly effective, evidence-based treatment for PTSD and co-occurring mood and anxiety symptoms. PE is supported by over twenty years of research and is based in emotion processing theory.
Emotion processing theory explains how in the process of confronting the previously avoided memory, an individual incorporates new learning into their understanding of the traumatic memory. The individual learns to discriminate between the past and the present as well as safe and unsafe situations. They also learn that memories and reminders of the trauma are not themselves dangerous, while building a stronger sense of confidence and mastery.
The PE protocol includes modules for psychoeducation, breathing retraining, in-vivo (real-life) exposure, and imaginal exposure. For adolescents, the protocol includes additional modules for motivational enhancement, family involvement, and crisis planning.