Can Therapy Over the Internet Be Used to Treat Trauma and Abuse-Related PTSD?

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The world of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is complex and wrought with ups and downs.  Those with PTSD can go from a state of stability to a state of distress and fear by the mere presence of a trigger in the environment, all at the drop of a dime.  Online therapy networks have emerged in a significant way in the contemporary behavioral health space and seek to offer persons with PTSD a convenient and accessible, yet efficacious road to treatment.

What Is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterized by not one, but several cornerstone symptoms.

A person with PTSD has one or more triggers that they associate with negative memories and emotions.  Knowing the personal impact of these triggers on their psyche, they consciously avoid all people, places, and things that remind them of any traumatic event, even going significantly out of their way at times to preserve a stable state of mind.  For instance, a person who suffered abuse at the hands of another individual may become triggered by someone who appears to resemble their abuser.

When a person with PTSD comes face to face with a trigger, they feel overwhelmed and become inundated with flashbacks of past traumas associated with the trigger.  Persons with PTSD often report insomnia and difficulty sleeping, and many even suffer from flashbacks in the form of nightmares.  They are also likely to suffer from anxiety and depressive disorders as a result of the immense dread and pressure that comes with needing to avoid their triggers.

Online-based therapy for trauma and abuse-related PTSD is delivered in a web-based format incorporating one or more digital methods of communication.  Larger online mental health providers feature availability 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, via face-to-face video conferencing, phone calls, and text messaging.  Many also utilize an app, making all documentation pertaining to therapy sessions easily accessible in one centralized location.

Online PTSD therapy is able to cast a wider net and reach many individuals who otherwise would have been unable to seek help.  Unlike their brick and mortar counterparts, online therapy saves its participants time and money by eliminating the need to commute to in-person sessions with a licensed therapist.  All sessions can be rendered from the comfort and safety of a person’s home, which is an important consideration for individuals who struggle with social anxiety that may also be tied to their PTSD experience.

In line with traditional therapy, the online treatment of PTSD can be done using a variety of proven, evidence-based methods.  Virtual mental health professionals who specialize in PTSD therapy have years of training and clinical experience in their discipline to prepare them for the difficult conversations that may arise.  Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular technique that has been largely successful for many.  This form of short-term psychotherapy seeks to acknowledge a person’s negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in creating a basis for positive habit-forming and positive goal setting.  For those with PTSD, it can be an empowering therapy method that trains individuals to regain control over their past traumas and self-regulate their thoughts and behaviors.

What Makes It Effective?

Online therapy for trauma and abuse-related PTSD is a convenient and accessible way to begin the journey to healing from past traumatic events.  The participant is able to exert full influence over all aspects of the process, which in and of itself can be self-affirming.

Web-based providers make it easy to find a professional counselor who specializes in PTSD and is a good personality fit for the participant.  Some platforms allow the prioritization of certain demographics in matching counselors to participants, and others even allow a number of trial consultations with different appointed counselors to ensure the comfort of both parties.

Depending on the perceived severity of their experience with PTSD, an individual may opt for an instructor-led online therapy program if they feel a need for the extra support and guidance of a trusted professional.  Participants are still able to moderate the level of contact they receive; they are able to opt for daily, weekly, or more periodic check-ins with their counselor.  Many online-based programs dedicated to CBT are participant-led, allowing the individual to partake in lessons and activities at a self-directed pace, with or without the presence of a counselor; such programs are ideal for a person who is committed to seeking help but wants to work more independently.

John S. - Editor in Chief

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