First-Line Treatment for PTSD

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (2017) psychotherapy (working with a mental health provider on identifying and processing moods, feelings, thoughts, behaviors) is the first-line treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) over pharmacotherapy (medical treatment by means of drugs).

Studies have shown that evidence based trauma-focused psychotherapies such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), prolonged exposure (PE), and cognitive processing therapy (CPT) are more effective than pharmacotherapy.

As a client, you are what I like to call the “treatment team leader.” Which means you are the expert of you. You know yourself better than anyone. No one else is with you 24/7/365 like you are with yourself. It is your decision to receive either psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, both, or none. AND TO HELP YOU MAKE THE DECISION THATS RIGHT FOR YOU is our responsibility, as mental health providers.

We help by giving you recommendations, from our clinical perspective, BASED off of what YOUR desired GOALS ARE and the symptoms you’re having that keep getting in the way of your quality of life.

As a client, you have a very important role and that is... to communicate your needs, know that it is 100% okay to say 'no,' and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Now is the time to be the advocate you needed when you were a little boy/girl.

It is the mental health clinicians responsibility to inform you of: 1.) your rights 2.) what the risks and benefits are of different treatment options 3.) the risks of no treatment

When you are being prescribed medication and receiving mental health therapy, it is very important for ALL clinicians (on your treatment team) to coordinate your care with each other and together with you.

Some medications can be very beneficial for PTSD symptoms. They can help with dialing down some of the more intrusive trauma symptoms so the trauma can be processed in therapy.

However, be mindful that medications (prescribed or self-medicated) may actually interfere with your healing process. This appears in the form of “band-aiding" symptoms for temporary relief. Which may lead to more or new side effects from the medications.


Department of Veterans Affairs & Department of Defense, (2017). Clinical practice guideline for the management of posttraumatic stress disorder: Clinician summary.

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