CPT – Cognitive Processing Therapy For Scam Victims’ Trauma

Helping Scam Victims Understand A Form Of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy That May Help Them

SCARS Recovery Psychology

Authors:
•  Vianey Gonzalez B.Sc(Psych) – Psychologist, Certified Deception Professional, Psychology Advisory Panel & Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.
•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.
•  Portions from additional sources, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration

About This Article

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) specifically designed to address the needs of scam victims suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related symptoms.

Developed by Dr. Patricia Resick and colleagues, CPT helps individuals challenge and reframe unhelpful thoughts and beliefs related to their traumatic experiences. It consists of various components, including education about PTSD, stress management techniques, cognitive restructuring, exposure therapy, and skill-building exercises.

Through structured sessions, scam victims learn to identify and challenge maladaptive thoughts, develop coping strategies, regulate emotions, and confront trauma-related triggers. CPT typically lasts 12 sessions and has been shown to be effective in reducing PTSD symptoms and improving overall functioning.

SCARS recommends CPT for all scam survivors and encourages individuals to discuss this treatment option with their trauma counselor or therapist to enhance their recovery journey.

SCARS Scam Victim Support & Recovery Program

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a type of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) designed to treat Scam Victims suffering from Trauma or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Related Symptoms 

SCARS recommends CPT (Cognitive Processing Therapy) therapy for all scam survivors. Please speak with your trauma counselor or therapist about it.

But what is CPT?

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) designed to treat scam victims suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related symptoms. Developed by Dr. Patricia Resick and colleagues in the late 1980s, CPT aims to help scam victims understand and challenge unhelpful thoughts and beliefs related to their traumatic experiences.

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is one specific type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

It is a 12-session therapy for trauma sufferers. CPT teaches you how to evaluate and change the upsetting thoughts you have had since your trauma. By changing your thoughts, you can change how you feel.

In CPT, the therapist guides the individual through a structured process of examining and challenging their thoughts and beliefs about the traumatic event. This typically involves identifying and challenging cognitive distortions, such as negative beliefs about oneself, others, and the world. The therapy helps scam victims develop a more balanced and accurate understanding of the traumatic event and its aftermath.

Key Components of CPT Include:

  • Education: The therapist provides education about PTSD, its symptoms, and the role of cognitive processes in maintaining symptoms.
  • Stress Management: Individuals learn coping skills to manage stress and anxiety related to their traumatic experiences.
  • Cognitive Restructuring: Through structured exercises and homework assignments, scam victims learn to identify and challenge maladaptive thoughts and beliefs associated with the trauma. They are encouraged to develop more adaptive ways of thinking about themselves, others, and the world.
  • Exposure Therapy: While not always included, some versions of CPT incorporate exposure techniques to help scam victims confront and process traumatic memories in a safe and controlled manner.
  • Skill Building: Individuals learn practical skills to help them cope with distressing emotions, improve communication, and enhance problem-solving abilities.

CPT is typically delivered over a set number of sessions, ranging from 12 to 16 sessions, although the exact duration may vary depending on the individual’s needs and progress. It has been widely researched and shown to be effective in reducing PTSD symptoms and improving overall functioning in trauma survivors.

Educational Component of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

The educational component of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) plays a crucial role in helping scam victims understand their trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and the role of cognitive processes in maintaining those symptoms. This component typically involves providing psychoeducation about PTSD and related concepts to increase scam victims’ awareness and understanding.

Here are some key aspects of the educational component:

  1. Understanding Trauma and PTSD: Therapists educate scam victims about the nature of PTSD, including its symptoms, causes, and common triggers. This helps scam victims recognize that their symptoms are a normal response to a traumatic event and reduces feelings of shame or self-blame.
  2. Cognitive Model of Trauma and PTSD: Therapists explain the cognitive model of PTSD, which emphasizes the role of distorted or unhelpful thoughts in maintaining symptoms. Individuals learn how their thoughts and beliefs about the traumatic event can influence their emotions and behaviors.
  3. Thought-Emotion-Behavior Connection: Individuals are taught to recognize the connection between their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. They learn that changing their thoughts can lead to changes in how they feel and behave, ultimately reducing PTSD symptoms.
  4. Common Cognitive Distortions: Therapists help scam victims identify common cognitive distortions or thinking errors associated with PTSD, such as overgeneralization, catastrophizing, and personalization. By recognizing these distortions, scam victims can begin to challenge and reframe their negative thoughts.
  5. Role of Avoidance: Therapists explain how avoidance behaviors contribute to the maintenance of PTSD symptoms. Individuals learn that avoiding trauma-related thoughts, emotions, or situations may provide temporary relief but ultimately reinforces their symptoms in the long term.
  6. Normalization: Education includes normalizing PTSD symptoms and reactions, emphasizing that many scam victims experience similar challenges after traumatic events. This validation helps reduce feelings of isolation and fosters a sense of connection with others who have gone through similar experiences.

The educational component of CPT provides scam victims with knowledge and insight into their PTSD symptoms and equips them with the understanding necessary to engage effectively in the therapy process. By gaining a deeper understanding of the cognitive processes underlying their symptoms, scam victims can work more effectively to challenge unhelpful thoughts and beliefs and achieve symptom relief.

Stress Management Component of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

The Stress Management component of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) focuses on teaching scam victims coping strategies to manage the distress associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. This component helps scam victims develop skills to reduce physiological arousal, regulate emotions, and cope with stress more effectively.

Here are some key elements of the Stress Management component:

  • Relaxation Techniques: Individuals learn various relaxation techniques to reduce physiological arousal and promote a sense of calmness. This may include deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and mindfulness meditation.
  • Stress Reduction Strategies: Therapists teach scam victims practical strategies to reduce stress in their daily lives. This may involve time management techniques, problem-solving skills, assertiveness training, and boundary-setting strategies to better manage stressors and conflicts.
  • Grounding Techniques: Individuals learn grounding techniques to help them stay present-focused and connected to the present moment, rather than becoming overwhelmed by intrusive memories or flashbacks. Grounding techniques may involve sensory-based exercises, such as focusing on the five senses or using grounding objects.
  • Positive Coping Skills Training: Individuals develop a repertoire of positive coping skills to manage distressing emotions and symptoms. This may include identifying and challenging unhelpful thoughts, practicing self-soothing techniques, engaging in enjoyable activities, and seeking social support from friends and family.
  • Cognitive Coping Strategies: Individuals learn cognitive coping strategies to challenge and reframe negative or distorted thoughts related to the traumatic event. They practice identifying and replacing unhelpful cognitive distortions with more balanced and realistic thoughts.
  • Emotion Regulation Skills: Individuals develop skills to regulate intense emotions associated with PTSD, such as anger, guilt, shame, and fear. This may involve emotion identification and expression, emotional awareness exercises, and distress tolerance skills to cope with overwhelming emotions.
  • Self-Care Practices: Therapists emphasize the importance of self-care in managing stress and promoting overall well-being. Individuals learn to prioritize self-care activities that nourish their physical, emotional, and spiritual health, such as exercise, healthy eating, adequate sleep, and leisure activities.

The Stress Management component of CPT equips scam victims with practical tools and strategies to cope with the challenges of PTSD symptoms and navigate stressful situations more effectively. By learning to regulate their emotions, manage stressors, and engage in self-care practices, scam victims can enhance their resilience and improve their quality of life despite experiencing trauma.

Cognitive Restructuring Component of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

The Cognitive Restructuring component of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a crucial aspect of the treatment designed to help scam victims with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) examine and change their negative beliefs and thoughts about themselves, others, and the world. This component aims to challenge and modify maladaptive cognitions that contribute to distressing symptoms and maintain the cycle of PTSD.

Here’s an overview of the Cognitive Restructuring component:

  • Identification of Trauma-Related Thoughts: In this phase, scam victims learn to identify and recognize the specific thoughts and beliefs they have about themselves, others, and the world that are related to their traumatic experiences. These thoughts often manifest as negative or distorted interpretations of the trauma and its consequences.
  • Evaluation of Thought Accuracy: Therapists guide scam victims to examine the accuracy and validity of their trauma-related thoughts. Scam Victims are encouraged to consider whether these thoughts are based on evidence or distorted perceptions influenced by the traumatic experience. They learn to distinguish between helpful and unhelpful thoughts.
  • Cognitive Challenging Techniques: Individuals are taught various cognitive challenging techniques to challenge and reframe their maladaptive thoughts. This may involve identifying cognitive distortions, such as catastrophizing, black-and-white thinking, and personalization, and replacing them with more balanced and realistic perspectives.
  • Socratic Questioning: Therapists use Socratic questioning to facilitate the process of cognitive restructuring. Through guided questioning, scam victims are encouraged to examine the evidence supporting and refuting their trauma-related thoughts, consider alternative explanations, and generate more adaptive interpretations of the traumatic event.
  • Behavioral Experiments: Scam Victims engage in behavioral experiments to test the validity of their trauma-related beliefs in real-life situations. These experiments provide opportunities for scam victims to gather evidence that challenges their negative thoughts and fosters cognitive flexibility. By experimenting with new behaviors and interpretations, scam victims can update their beliefs and reduce distress.
  • Cognitive Coping Statements: Individuals develop a repertoire of cognitive coping statements or affirmations to counteract negative thoughts and bolster their resilience. These statements are personalized and tailored to address specific triggers or situations that evoke distressing thoughts related to the trauma. Repeating these coping statements helps scam victims internalize more adaptive beliefs and responses.
  • Homework Assignments: Scam Victims are assigned homework exercises to practice cognitive restructuring techniques between therapy sessions. These assignments may include thought records, journaling, and role-playing scenarios to reinforce learning and facilitate the application of cognitive skills in everyday life.

Through the Cognitive Restructuring component of CPT, scam victims learn to challenge and change their trauma-related thoughts, thereby reducing the intensity of PTSD symptoms and improving overall functioning. By developing cognitive flexibility and adopting more adaptive beliefs, scam victims can regain a sense of control over their thoughts and emotions, leading to enhanced well-being and recovery from trauma.

Exposure Therapy Component of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

The Exposure Therapy component of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a structured and evidence-based treatment approach designed to help scam victims with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) confront and process distressing memories and reminders of their traumatic experiences. Exposure therapy aims to reduce symptoms of PTSD by systematically exposing scam victims to trauma-related stimuli in a safe and controlled environment.

Here’s an overview of the Exposure Therapy component:

  • Psychoeducation: Before engaging in exposure exercises, scam victims receive psychoeducation about the rationale and purpose of exposure therapy. Therapists explain how avoiding trauma-related memories and triggers can perpetuate PTSD symptoms and how exposure can help scam victims gradually confront and process their distress.
  • Identification of Trauma Triggers: Scam Victims work with therapists to identify specific trauma triggers or reminders that evoke distressing memories, emotions, and physical sensations associated with the traumatic event. These triggers can include sights, sounds, smells, situations, or internal thoughts and feelings.
  • Gradual Exposure: Exposure therapy involves systematically exposing scam victims to trauma-related stimuli in a hierarchical and graded manner. Therapists collaborate with Scam Victims to develop an exposure hierarchy, starting with less distressing triggers and gradually progressing to more challenging ones. This gradual approach allows scam victims to build tolerance and mastery over their distress.
  • Imaginal Exposure: In imaginal exposure, scam victims recount their traumatic experiences in detail while vividly imagining the sights, sounds, emotions, and sensations associated with the event. Therapists guide Scam Victims through the narrative, encouraging them to engage fully with the memories and emotions without avoiding or suppressing them.
  • In Vivo Exposure: In vivo exposure involves confronting real-life situations or triggers that resemble aspects of the traumatic event. Therapists support Scam Victims in gradually approaching and tolerating these situations, starting with less distressing scenarios and progressively working up to more challenging ones. Exposure may involve visiting locations associated with the trauma or engaging in activities that evoke fear or anxiety.
  • Interoceptive Exposure: Interoceptive exposure involves deliberately inducing physical sensations or bodily experiences that mimic symptoms of anxiety or arousal commonly experienced during traumatic situations. This may include activities such as controlled breathing exercises, muscle tension exercises, or exposure to physical sensations associated with anxiety.
  • Processing and Coping Strategies: Throughout exposure exercises, therapists help Scam Victims process their emotional reactions, cognitions, and physical sensations. Scam Victims learn coping strategies to manage distress and regulate their arousal during exposure, such as deep breathing, grounding techniques, and positive self-talk.
  • Repetitive Exposure: Exposure therapy typically involves repeated and prolonged exposure to trauma-related stimuli over time. Through repetition, scam victims habituate to the triggers and experience a reduction in the intensity of their emotional and physiological responses. Repetitive exposure also allows for the consolidation of new learning and the integration of traumatic memories into long-term memory networks.
  • Homework Assignments: Scam Victims are often assigned homework exercises to practice exposure techniques outside of therapy sessions. This may include engaging in exposure tasks independently, keeping a journal of their experiences and reactions, or practicing relaxation and coping skills between sessions.

Exposure Therapy in CPT helps scam victims confront and process trauma-related memories and triggers in a safe and supportive environment. By systematically exposing themselves to distressing stimuli and learning coping strategies, scam victims can reduce avoidance behaviors, diminish PTSD symptoms, and regain a sense of mastery and control over their lives.

Skill Building Component of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

The skill-building component of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) focuses on teaching scam victims practical coping skills to manage distressing thoughts, emotions, and behaviors associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trauma-related symptoms. Skill-building exercises are designed to help Scam Victims develop healthier cognitive patterns, improve emotional regulation, and enhance their ability to cope with stressors.

Here’s an overview of the Skill Building component:

  • Identifying and Challenging Unhelpful Thoughts: Scam Victims learn to recognize and challenge unhelpful or distorted thoughts related to the traumatic event. Therapists guide Scam Victims in identifying common cognitive distortions such as catastrophizing, black-and-white thinking, and personalization. Scam Victims are taught to examine the evidence for and against their thoughts, consider alternative perspectives, and develop more balanced and realistic interpretations of the traumatic experience.
  • Developing Adaptive Coping Strategies: Scam Victims learn a variety of coping strategies to manage distressing emotions and symptoms of PTSD. These strategies may include relaxation techniques (e.g., deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation), mindfulness practices, grounding exercises, and guided imagery. Scam Victims practice these techniques in therapy sessions and are encouraged to use them as tools for self-regulation outside of therapy.
  • Enhancing Emotional Awareness and Regulation: Scam Victims learn to identify and label their emotions more accurately and to understand the physiological sensations associated with different emotional states. Therapists help Scam Victims explore healthy ways of expressing and processing emotions, such as journaling, art therapy, or engaging in physical activities. Scam Victims also learn strategies for managing intense emotions, including self-soothing techniques and distress tolerance skills.
  • Improving Interpersonal Skills: Scam Victims learn effective communication and assertiveness skills to navigate interpersonal relationships and boundaries. Therapists help Scam Victims identify communication patterns that may contribute to relationship difficulties or conflict. Scam Victims practice assertiveness techniques, active listening, and problem-solving strategies to improve communication with others and build healthier relationships.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: Scam Victims learn problem-solving strategies to address practical challenges and stressors in their daily lives. Therapists guide Scam Victims through the problem-solving process, which involves identifying the problem, generating potential solutions, evaluating the pros and cons of each option, and implementing a plan of action. Scam Victims practice problem-solving skills in therapy and apply them to real-life situations outside of sessions.
  • Building Resilience and Self-Compassion: Scam Victims work on developing resilience and self-compassion as they navigate the challenges of PTSD recovery. Therapists encourage Scam Victims to cultivate self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-compassion through mindfulness practices and self-reflection. Scam Victims learn to challenge self-criticism and develop a more compassionate and nurturing relationship with themselves.
  • Stress Management Techniques: Scam Victims learn practical strategies for managing stress and reducing the impact of trauma-related triggers on their daily functioning. This may include time-management skills, organization strategies, and lifestyle modifications to promote self-care and well-being. Scam Victims practice stress management techniques tailored to their individual needs and preferences.
  • Homework Assignments and Practice: Scam Victims are assigned homework exercises to practice and reinforce the skills learned in therapy sessions. Homework assignments may include practicing coping strategies, completing thought records or worksheets, and applying problem-solving techniques to real-life situations. Consistent practice outside of therapy sessions helps Scam Victims integrate new skills into their daily lives and promotes lasting change.

The skill-building component of CPT equips scam victims with the tools and strategies they need to effectively manage PTSD symptoms, cope with stressors, and improve their overall well-being. By developing adaptive coping skills and enhancing emotional resilience, Scam Victims can regain a sense of control and empowerment in their recovery journey.

How Does it Work?

Trauma can change the way you think about yourself and the world. You may believe you are to blame for what happened or that the world is a dangerous place. These kinds of thoughts keep you stuck in your PTSD and cause you to miss out on things you used to enjoy. CPT teaches you a new way to handle these upsetting thoughts. In CPT, you will learn skills that can help you decide whether there are more helpful ways to think about your trauma. You will learn how to examine whether the facts support your thought or do not support your thought. And ultimately, you can decide whether or not it makes sense to take a new perspective.

What Can You Expect?

Your therapist will start off by giving you an overview of the treatment. Together, you will review some information about Trauma/PTSD in order to help you better understand your symptoms. Your therapist probably will ask about the type of trauma you experienced, but you will not need to go into great detail right away. Your therapist will also ask you to do some writing about how your trauma has affected you. Over the next several sessions, you will talk about any negative or unhelpful thoughts you have been having about the trauma, and you will work together to learn to consider other ways of thinking about the situation. You will use worksheets in session and at home that help you learn this strategy. CPT can also include writing about the details of your trauma (although sometimes this can be skipped). This may sound difficult at first, but you may be more able to cope with emotions like anger, sadness, and guilt by talking it over with your therapist. Towards the end of therapy, you and your therapist will focus on some specific areas of your life that may have been affected by the trauma, including your sense of safety, trust, control, self-esteem, and intimacy.

Is It Effective?

Yes, trauma-focused psychotherapy (including Cognitive Processing Therapy) is one of the most effective types of treatment for Trauma/PTSD.

How Long Does Treatment Last?

CPT usually takes 12 weekly sessions, so treatment lasts about 3 months. Sessions are 60 to 90 minutes each. You may start to feel better after a few sessions. The benefits of CPT typically last long after your final session with your therapist

Summary

What this means is that CPT is a great starting point to bring your trauma under control, allowing you to manage it. We hope this helps you to understand CPT and that you will explore it with your therapist.

Overall, Cognitive Processing Therapy offers a structured and evidence-based approach to help scam victims overcome the debilitating effects of trauma and regain control over their lives.

SCARS employs aspects of this without our support program to help reinforce the therapy that each of you should be receiving for your trauma. Of course, SCARS is not a mental healthcare therapist, nor a psychologist, but we focus on the elements that are useful independent from the therapy itself.

If you have not spoken with your therapist about Cognitive Processing Therapy, we suggest that you do so during your next session.

Psychology Disclaimer:

All articles about psychology and the human brain on this website are for information & education only

The information provided in this article is intended for educational and self-help purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for professional therapy or counseling.

While any self-help techniques outlined herein may be beneficial for scam victims seeking to recover from their experience and move towards recovery, it is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before initiating any course of action. Each individual’s experience and needs are unique, and what works for one person may not be suitable for another.

Additionally, any approach may not be appropriate for individuals with certain pre-existing mental health conditions or trauma histories. It is advisable to seek guidance from a licensed therapist or counselor who can provide personalized support, guidance, and treatment tailored to your specific needs.

If you are experiencing significant distress or emotional difficulties related to a scam or other traumatic event, please consult your doctor or mental health provider for appropriate care and support.

If you are in crisis, feeling desperate, or in despair please call 988 or your local crisis hotline.

SCARS Resources:

PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.

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The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of the Society of Citizens Against Rleationship Scams Inc. The author is solely responsible for the content of their work. SCARS is protected under the Communications Decency Act (CDA) section 230 from liability.

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