Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

Cognitive Processing Therapy in San Diego

Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a highly effective therapeutic approach designed to help individuals overcome trauma-related conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This evidence-based treatment focuses on addressing and reprocessing traumatic memories, allowing individuals to gain a better understanding of their thoughts and feelings associated with trauma. Recognized worldwide for its effectiveness, CPT has become a vital tool for many seeking to improve their mental health and well-being.

Monima is a unique outpatient trauma treatment center explicitly designed for women seeking mental health support in beautiful San Diego, California. We recognize that no two clients are the same, and trauma looks different for everyone. That’s why our team provides inclusive and individualized care based on the needs, diagnoses, and goals of each client — regardless of where they are at in their wellness journey.

At Monima Wellness, we foster a safe and inclusive environment where women and LGBTQ+ individuals feel empowered and supported during treatment. Monima offers clients the unique opportunity to build lasting bonds and a sense of community while in treatment.


What is Cognitive Processing Therapy?

Cognitive processing therapy is a specific type of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that is used specifically to treat trauma by focusing on the impact of trauma on thoughts and beliefs. Developed initially to treat PTSD in veterans, CPT has now expanded to support individuals struggling with various types of trauma and even comorbid mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder, treatment-resistant depressive disorders, and schizophrenia spectrum disorders. This therapy is rooted in the understanding that traumatic events or trauma can significantly alter a person’s beliefs and perceptions, leading to distressing symptoms that can impact daily functioning.

CPT focuses on identifying and challenging the unhelpful thoughts and beliefs that emerge after a traumatic event. By working through these negative thoughts, individuals can reshape their understanding of the trauma, reduce symptoms, and improve their overall quality of life. 

Cognitive Processing Therapy Phases

CPT is typically conducted over 12 sessions, although this can vary based on each individual’s response to treatment. Some individuals may require more than 12 sessions to begin seeing the results they are looking for. CPT is divided into distinct phases:

  1. Initial phase: The initial phase focuses on education about PTSD and the impact of trauma on thoughts and beliefs. Individuals learn about the cognitive model of PTSD and begin to identify their trauma-related thoughts.
  2. Middle phase: During the middle phase, individuals engage in activities to challenge and change their maladaptive thoughts. This includes writing assignments that detail their traumatic experiences and cognitive restructuring exercises.
  3. Final phase: During the final phase, the focus shifts to consolidating the gains made during therapy. Individuals develop alternative, healthier thoughts and beliefs about their trauma and learn strategies to maintain these changes.

How Cognitive Processing Therapy Works

As we know, CPT works by helping individuals understand and change the thoughts and beliefs that contribute to trauma-related symptoms. This treatment is based on the idea that individuals can recover from trauma by changing the way they think about their experiences. As mentioned previously, this process takes place through several phases. Here’s a closer look at what those phases consist of:

1. Education about PTSD and Trauma

The initial phase of CPT involves educating individuals about PTSD and the ways trauma can impact their thoughts and feelings. Understanding the nature of PTSD helps individuals make sense of their experiences and prepares them for the therapeutic process. Education includes:

  • Understanding PTSD symptoms: Learning about common PTSD symptoms such as flashbacks, avoidance behaviors, and hyperarousal.
  • Impact of trauma: Exploring how trauma affects thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

2. Identifying and Challenging Maladaptive Thoughts

One of the central tasks in CPT is identifying and challenging maladaptive thoughts and beliefs that stem from the traumatic event. These problematic thoughts can include:

  • Self-blame: Believing that the trauma was their fault or that they could have prevented it.
    • Example: “If only I had acted differently, this wouldn’t have happened.”
  • Safety: Feeling constantly unsafe or that danger is always imminent.
    • Example: “I can’t trust anyone; the world is dangerous.”
  • Trust: Difficulty trusting others and feeling betrayed by people they once relied on.
    • Example: “I can’t trust anyone; everyone will eventually hurt me.”
  • Power and control: Feeling powerless and unable to control their own lives.
    • Example: “I have no control over my life; bad things will keep happening to me.”
  • Esteem: Negative beliefs about oneself and low self-worth.
    • Example: “I am weak because I couldn’t prevent the trauma.”

Challenging these thoughts involves recognizing these patterns and questioning their validity. By doing so, individuals can begin to change their perspectives and reduce the intensity of their PTSD symptoms.

3. Processing the Trauma

3. Processing the Trauma

Through structured writing assignments and discussions guided by licensed mental health professionals, individuals are encouraged to recount their traumatic experiences in detail. This helps to process the event and integrate the memories more adaptively into their overall life narrative. Key activities of this process include:

  • Writing detailed accounts: Writing about the traumatic event helps individuals confront and process their experiences.
  • Emotional expression: Discuss the written accounts with the therapist to express and process emotions linked to the trauma.

4. Developing Alternative Thoughts

The final phase of CPT is where the magic happens. This phase of treatment focuses on developing healthier and more balanced thoughts about the traumatic event and its aftermath. This shift in thinking can significantly reduce symptoms of PTSD and improve overall mental health. Steps in this phase include:

  • Cognitive restructuring: Working with the therapist to replace maladaptive thoughts with more balanced and realistic ones.
    • Example: Changing “I am to blame for what happened” to “I did the best I could in a difficult situation.”
  • Reinforcing positive beliefs: Building new, healthier beliefs about oneself, others, and the world.
    • Example: “I am strong for surviving this, and I can trust some people who have shown they care about me.”

Benefits & Effectiveness of CPT

Cognitive processing therapy has been shown to provide numerous benefits for individuals grappling with trauma-related disorders. Some of these benefits include:

  • Reduction in PTSD symptoms: CPT is highly effective in reducing the core symptoms of PTSD, including re-experiencing the trauma, avoidance, negative alterations in mood and cognition, and hyperarousal.
  • Improved emotional regulation: By addressing and reframing maladaptive thoughts, individuals often experience enhanced emotional regulation and a reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms.
  • Enhanced self-esteem and self-compassion: Challenging self-blame and other negative beliefs can lead to increased self-esteem and self-compassion, allowing individuals to move forward with a more positive self-view.
  • Better interpersonal relationships: As individuals process their trauma and change their thinking patterns, they often improve their relationships with others. Increased trust, communication, and empathy are expected outcomes.

Are you concerned about a traumatic event’s impact on yourself or a loved one? Take the PTSD Quiz to learn if you may be suffering from PTSD and whether it’s time to seek treatment for trauma-related symptoms. 

Who Can CPT Help?

Cognitive processing therapy is beneficial for a wide range of individuals experiencing trauma-related symptoms. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5), a traumatic event is defined as exposure to the following: death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence. Based on this definition, individuals who typically benefit the most from CPT include, but are not limited to: 

  • Veterans and active duty military personnel: Originally developed for veterans, CPT is highly effective in addressing combat-related PTSD.
  • Survivors of sexual assault and abuse: Individuals who have experienced sexual trauma can find benefits and improve trauma-related symptoms using CPT.
  • Victims of accidents and natural disasters: Those who have experienced life-threatening events may benefit from processing trauma through CPT.
  • Individuals with childhood trauma: CPT can help those dealing with the long-term effects of childhood abuse or neglect.

Things to Consider Before Beginning CPT

Before beginning CPT, or trauma therapy of any kind, it is essential to consider several factors to ensure it is the right fit for you:

  • Readiness to engage in therapy: CPT requires active participation and a willingness to confront and process traumatic memories. Consider whether you feel ready to engage in this type of intensive therapy.
  • Therapist compatibility: Finding a therapist with whom you feel comfortable and safe is crucial for the success of any therapeutic program. A solid therapeutic relationship is vital for the success of CPT.
  • Commitment to the process: CPT involves homework assignments and regular sessions. To achieve the best outcomes, individuals should be prepared to commit to the entire course of therapy.
  • Support system: Having a supportive network of friends and family or participation in support groups can be beneficial as you navigate therapy challenges and begin to revisit difficult experiences.

How to Get Started with CPT at Monima Wellness in San Diego

At Monima Wellness, we are dedicated to providing high-quality mental health and trauma treatment for women and LGBTQ+ individuals in San Diego. Our team of skilled therapists specializes in various trauma therapies, including cognitive processing therapy, somatic experiencing (SE) therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. Our San Diego outpatient trauma programs offer a compassionate and supportive environment for your healing journey.


What to Expect With CPT at Monima Wellness

During your time enrolled in an outpatient treatment program at Monima Wellness, you will engage in various activities designed to help you process and reframe your trauma-related thoughts. This might include:

  • Writing assignments: Structured writing assignments are a vital component of CPT, helping you to articulate and analyze your trauma in a safe and supportive environment.
  • Cognitive restructuring: Our skilled therapists will guide you through exercises to challenge and change maladaptive thoughts and beliefs.
  • Therapeutic dialogue: Open and honest discussions with your therapist and peers can help you explore your thoughts and feelings, leading to greater insight and healing.

Our services are designed to address the unique needs of women and LGBTQ+ folks, providing a safe space to process trauma and build resilience. We believe in a holistic approach to mental health and trauma treatment, integrating various therapeutic techniques to support your overall well-being.

Learn More About Our Approach

Take The First Step Toward Healing

If you or a loved one are struggling with the effects of trauma, we invite you to reach out to us. 
Contact us to learn more about how CPT and outpatient treatment can help you reclaim your life. 

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