Evolution of Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Barbara-Rothbaum

Associate Vice-Chair of Clinical Research, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine
Director, Emory Healthcare Veterans Program
Director, Emory Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program
Paul A. Janssen Chair in Neuropsychopharmacology

Key Points

  1. Prolonged exposure therapy began shortly after PTSD was officially recognized, and is now a first-line, evidence-based treatment for the disorder.
  2. PE is supported by extensive evidence, showing effectiveness across various types of trauma and cultural contexts.
  3. The goal of PE is to enable patients to reclaim their lives from PTSD by confronting and processing traumatic memories, akin to navigating through the grief process.
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Historical Context

Prolonged exposure (PE) therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) started with the first treatment study in 1986, shortly after PTSD was officially recognized in the DSM-III (1980). Dr. Edna Foa and Dr. Barbara Rothbaum, in Philadelphia, were the pioneers in this field. Since its inception, PE has gained recognition as an evidence-based and first-line treatment for PTSD in various clinical guidelines, including those from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Defense (DoD), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

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