PTSD: How Couples and Families Benefit from Therapy Too

PTSD: Couple's Conjoint Therapy - San Antonio Therapist

PTSD: Couple’s Conjoint Therapy – San Antonio Therapist

Revised September 11, 2015.

Constantly witnessing the debilitating effects of PTSD on someone you love is tough. It’s tough to be the loved one of someone with PTSD. So tough, in fact, that without help, too many marriages crumble completely and too many of their affected children suffer, too. Depression, anxiety and violence can become the destructive legacy borne out of the trauma playing on repeat in the mind of a spouse or parent with PTSD.
Trauma, Emotional Fatigue and the Resulting Family Drama.
As much as he or she tries to get a handle on it, PTSD won’t go away on its own. Too often, PTSD sufferers still try to suppress or control the feelings of fear, anger, powerlessness or shame with disastrous results to their relationships. The PTSD symptoms make the sufferer unpredictable and disruptive to the family dynamic. Family members may begin to fear and resent the change in their loved one.  They also may become hyper-sympathetic, bending over backward to help, hoping to love their partner or parent back to normalcy. When family attempts to help only result in more disruption or withdrawal by their loved one, family interactions become even more complicated. Soon emotional disturbance starts to plague families in the following ways:

  • High conflict with the sufferer
  • Detachment from the sufferer
  • Depression and hopelessness
  • Guilt at their inability to help
  • Anger at the sufferer’s inability to improve
  • General negativity towards the sufferer
  • Anxiety regarding safety and unpredictability
  • Caregiver burden, especially among female partners
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms and habits

With all of this happening in the home, it is no wonder why the PTSD sufferer becomes more discouraged and family members are at a loss about how to take care of themselves, much less their loved one.

How Conjoint Couples Therapy Complements Individual PTSD Therapy…And Finally Brings Relief.

Therapy for the individual PTSD sufferer is necessary and definitely the place to begin. The PTSD victim requires quality treatment as he or she learns more effective ways to cope, manage symptoms, and deal with the feelings of guilt, vulnerability, and responsibility that accompany family life.

However, the benefits of Cognitive-Behavioral Conjoint Therapy should be considered and employed for the benefit of the sufferer’s primary relationships.

Intentional time spent in therapy together would support efforts to help the couple cope with the high levels of stress and emotional problems created by the disorder. Individual treatments help the sufferer but don’t necessarily help an affected couple reconnect, often postponing relationship work too long.

So what does PTSD couples therapy look like?

Recent research indicates that a method called Cognitive-Behavioral Conjoint Therapy for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (CBCT for PTSD) is extremely helpful in helping couples reestablish emotional intimacy.

CBCT for PTSD is basically 15 treatment sessions of 75 minutes each. Couples focus on their problems, and work toward the goal of improving the individual’s PTSD while simultaneously improving relationship functioning.

Results from this type of therapy have shown that partner social support does two key things:

  • CBCT utilizes the relationship to make the PTSD sufferer feel better and more inclined toward self-disclosure rather than feeling pressured, guilty or ashamed.
  • CBCT provides a safe, productive environment for fostering greater relationship satisfaction, which promotes feelings of security and greater contentment for the entire family.

The impact to PTSD sufferers is real and his or her family suffers, too.

But with the help of a qualified therapist, PTSD doesn’t have to destroy relationships and trauma doesn’t have to have the last word.  Call me to discuss CBCT for your and your partner.  You can also go online to make an appointment.

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