Exposure therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder

Am J Psychother. 2002;56(1):59-75. doi: 10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.2002.56.1.59.


Exposure therapy is a well-established treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that requires the patient to focus on and describe the details of a traumatic experience. Exposure methods include confrontation with frightening, yet realistically safe, stimuli that continues until anxiety is reduced. A review of the literature on exposure therapy indicates strong support from well-controlled studies applied across trauma populations. However, there are many misconceptions about exposure therapy that may interfere with its widespread use. These myths and clinical guidelines are addressed. It is concluded that exposure therapy is a safe and effective treatment for PTSD when applied as directed by experienced therapists.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Combat Disorders / psychology
  • Combat Disorders / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Psychological Theory
  • Rape / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • User-Computer Interface