Taking back control: How CBT and EMDR can help you heal from PTSD

Life can throw some incredibly difficult experiences our way. Sometimes, these experiences can leave lasting impacts that affect our daily lives. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one such consequence. It's important to remember that PTSD is not a sign of weakness; it's a normal reaction to an abnormal event. If you're experiencing symptoms of PTSD, there is hope. Effective treatments are available to help you heal and move forward.


Understanding PTSD

PTSD can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. This could be a car accident, a natural disaster, an assault, or any event that left you feeling unsafe or helpless. Common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Flashbacks – Vivid memories or reliving of the traumatic event.
  • Nightmares – Disturbing dreams related to the trauma.
  • Intrusive thoughts – Unwanted and upsetting thoughts about the event.
  • Avoidance – Avoiding people, places, or situations that trigger memories of the trauma.
  • Hypervigilance – Feeling constantly on edge and easily startled.
  • Negative thoughts and feelings – Difficulty experiencing positive emotions, feeling detached, or having a bleak outlook on life.

Living with PTSD can be incredibly isolating. Flashbacks, nightmares, and constant anxiety can make it hard to feel safe and in control. But there is hope. Both CBT and EMDR are evidence-based therapies that have been shown to be very effective in helping people overcome PTSD.


CBT is a structured, evidence-based therapy that focuses on the connection between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. When applied to PTSD, CBT helps you identify negative thought patterns that may be keeping you stuck. For example, you might have the belief that you're "broken" because of the trauma. Through CBT, we can challenge these unhelpful beliefs and develop more realistic and empowering thoughts. Additionally, CBT helps you develop coping skills to manage difficult emotions and situations.expand_more


EMDR is a powerful therapy that utilizes a specific set of procedures to help your brain process traumatic memories. During EMDR sessions, you'll focus on disturbing memory while engaging in bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements or hand taps. This bilateral stimulation is thought to help your brain reprocess the traumatic memory in a less distressing way. Over time, the emotional intensity associated with the memory can decrease.

The right approach for you

Both CBT and EMDR have a strong evidence base in the treatment of PTSD. The best approach for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences. It is important to discuss the differences with your therapist so that you can collaboratively decide together.

Healing from PTSD takes time and commitment. It's important to find a therapist you feel comfortable with, someone who creates a safe and supportive environment. Therapy can be a challenging but rewarding process. With hard work and perseverance, you can learn to manage your symptoms, reclaim control of your life, and find peace.

Remember, you're not alone. There is support available, and there is hope for healing.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Warrington, Lancashire, WA3
Written by Daniel Kearsley, BABCP Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Therapist.
Warrington, Lancashire, WA3

Hi I'm Dan, a therapist specialising in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. I see many clients who are struggling with the lasting effects of trauma, and specifically, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

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