Cognitive Processing Therapy 3.0

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I was feeling positive the morning of my third trauma-focused therapy session. I went to the gym that morning, bought myself a coffee, and sat down to read a book. I was calm. I was not thinking about what was to come.

My therapist bought a weighted blanket around the time I first started seeing her. It helps keep me grounded. I always sit down on the couch and put it on my legs. The pressure helps me feel calm and present. As soon as I was situated I grabbed my stuck points log and started reading each point. One, two, three…eleven, twelve, thirteen…and fourteen.

“Say more about that. How is that different from a similar stuck point?”

“I don’t know.”

“Was there something specific you were thinking about when you wrote that?”

“I don’t know.”

“To your best recollection, what can you think of that makes that statement seem true?”

“I don’t know.”

Avoidance. I could not provide details about that stuck point. I could not acknowledge what I thought made me responsible. Do you know what that feels like? It feels like failure, frustration, anger, and the knowledge that change may never take place because I cannot face what happened.

I am sure my therapist knew I was avoiding. I am sure she was probably a little frustrated by my answers to her questions. She did not push. She did not force. Later, she told me she knows it has to be my idea or I won’t do it. I am sure that is true of most people, but with my intense need to be in control of all situations and circumstances, it is especially true of me.

I am sure that at some point I will have to acknowledge the details of this stuck point. Each session and homework assignment builds off of the next. My homework proves that I will have to go into some detail eventually. Each day I am required to fill out an ABC form. The A stands for activating event (something happened). The B stands for belief (what I believe about what happened, AKA: stuck point), and the C stands for consequence (how I felt). There are two additional questions at the bottom that ask if the belief is helpful and if I can tell myself something different if I am ever in a similar situation. At least once during the week I have to choose a stuck point from my log and use the above format to work through. That stuck point cannot be avoided, and I will have to write what happened in the A column.

Sometimes I text or email my therapist when I have a question or need help. I sent her a text asking if the answer to “is this belief helpful?” should always be “no.” I want to write that the belief is helpful. I am convinced that the belief protects me from further harm or pain. The truth is, I have to use wisemind to tell myself that my beliefs are not helpful. My therapist told me to “follow logic, the feelings will follow.” I am not sure if that is true, but I am willing to write “no” each time and figure out why that is true.

As I climb further and further up the hill, past the stop sign, I am feeling more and more dyregulated. Immediately after session 3 I found myself almost unconsciously driving to the store to buy a razor blade. Instead, I bought some cheap stuff for my son: fake snowballs to throw in the house, gross zombie teeth, and a stingray that grows in water. Stupid but not as stupid as buying the razor blade.

I know the dysregulation will settle. I listened to a podcast about a woman who also went through CPT and documented the process by recording her sessions (it gets graphic). She would take an assessment at the beginning of each session (as is the protocol for CPT). Her score was high when she started and dropped significantly by the final session – about 12 points. She regulated. I too will likely regulate, but I am having a difficult time seeing that after session 3. It’s always only fifty more meters to the next telephone pole.

*If anyone is interested in the podcast I mentioned, it is on This American Life. It is called Ten Sessions. As I stated above, it does get graphic and could be triggering for anyone with a sexual assault or rape history.

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