Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

All information on CPT was taken from CPTWeb and should be attributed to that source. In some small cases some modifications have been made to enhance clarity.  It is strongly recommended that you go to the original source for the best information.


Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is an adaptation of the evidence-based therapy known as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) used by clinicians to help consumers explore recovery from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related conditions.  CPT  is a cognitive behavioural therapy treatment that has been approved by the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies.  To see the Practice Guidelines for CPT provided by the ISTSS please click here and scroll down to the section entitled Cognitive Processing Therapy.

CPT involves a structured, sequenced approach to address the unique needs of each patient suffering from PTSD and/or depression. Specifically, CPT is a short-term treatment that may work in as few as 12 treatment sessions. Of course, treatment may be provided for longer periods depending on each individual’s needs. Sessions address the following issues:

  • Educating patients about PTSD and explaining the nature of their symptoms
  • Helping patients explore how traumatic events have affected their lives
  • Learning about connections between trauma-related thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  • Remembering the traumatic event and experiencing the emotions associated with it
  • Increasing patients’ ability to challenge maladaptive thoughts about the trauma
  • Helping patients increase their understanding of unhelpful thinking patterns and learn new, healthier ways of thinking; and
  • Facilitating patients’ exploration of how each of 5 core themes have been affected by their traumatic experiences

There is strong scientific evidence that CPT helps patients overcome PTSD and depression that are associated with trauma exposure.

  • Multiple randomized, controlled clinical trials have found that CPT is better than no treatment or good comparison treatments in reducing symptoms related to trauma.
  • CPT is effective in both military/veteran and civilian populations.
  • Though this course focuses on use of CPT as an individual treatment, there is evidence that CPT can also be delivered effectively in a group format.
  • CPT was developed and tested with patients presenting with a wide range of comorbid disorders and complicated trauma histories.

CPT is appropriate for patients who have experienced a traumatic event and are suffering from PTSD and/or depression. CPT is probably not appropriate for patients who are currently a danger to themselves or others, or who are in imminent danger due to their involvement in an abusive relationship (or due to being stalked). Also, if a patient is so dissociative or has such severe panic attacks that they cannot discuss the trauma at all, then other therapy may need to precede the onset of CPT. CPT has als o been used with patients who have co-morbid substance abuse problems, but only after they have stabilized following detoxification, though not all patients with substance abuse problems may be able to tolerate CPT; these decisions should probably be made on a case-by-case basis.

Although CPT has a manual and is designed to be delivered in a structured sequence, it is not a “cookbook” of regimented procedures delivered in an impersonal manner. As this site makes clear, CPT is best delivered by creative, resourceful therapists w ho have developed close therapeutic alliances with their clients.

CPT can be used by psychologists, social workers, professional counselors, psychiatrists, clinical counselors, or other trained professionals.

If you are interested in training in CPT click here.


The following is a short video from youtube that explains Cognitive Processing Therapy: 

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