I do believe that it is necessary for patients suffering from PTSD to engage in long term exposure to their traumatic memories. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s (ADAA), over 8 million Americans have been diagnosed with PTSD, and 3.6% of the population have experienced an episode in the past year. Though there are other forms of treatment for PTSD, tactics such as imaginal exposure and recollecting the experience(s) through writing are the most effective methods as they allow the patient to come to terms with their traumas in a controlled and safe manner.
A study done by Foa, Rothbaum, Riggs, and Murdock in 1991 compared the effectiveness of the prolonged exposure method of treatment and a treatment called stress inoculation training (SIT), which focuses more so on learning coping skills that can be used to subdue intrusive thoughts. The study found that in rape victims who developed PTSD, exposure therapy was more effective in the long run. The researchers speculated that direct exposure creates changes within the patient that will forever stay with them, as opposed to SIT which requires constant utilization in order to be effective. A study conducted by Alexander Cline et. al states that those who had gone to exposure based therapies that lasted for at least six months had had stronger, long term positive outcomes compared to those who had engaged in other types of therapies.
The study concludes that a combination of both exposure and cognitive therapy has been shown to create the most improvement within PTSD sufferers. As with most emotional disorders, exposure and coping treatments should be used in tandem in order to create the most positive change in a patient.