Prolonged Exposure (PE) Therapy

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Target Population: 
Military Sector: 
All Branches, Veterans Affairs
Target Audience 

This program is for adults who have post traumatic stress disorder.


Prolonged Exposure (PE) Therapy is a one-on-one therapeutic treatment for adults who have experienced significant trauma and have consequently received a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).   Treatment focuses on reducing trauma symptoms such as hypervigilance, hyperarousal, flashbacks, and related depression and anxiety symptoms.


Numerous randomized clinical trials, including several external replications of PE Therapy, have demonstrated its effectiveness as a treatment for PTSD.  Studies consistently reveal that individuals who participated in PE Therapy, compared to various control conditions (e.g., wait-list/delayed treatment, relaxation therapy, person-centered therapy, typical treatment, and dynamic therapy), showed the following improvements:  significant reduction in their PTSD symptoms at immediate post-treatment and at follow-up (i.e., ranging from 6- to 17-months post-treatment); significant reduction in secondary depressive and anxiety symptoms; and overall significant increases in measures of global functioning.   These results are found in individuals with a wide variety of traumatic exposures (e.g., robberies, sexual assaults, domestic violence, childhood abuse, combat and terrorism-related traumas), with differences in degree of exposure, single and chronic, and with wide ranges in time from last trauma exposure (i.e., from 3 months to no upper limit).  The efficacy of PE Therapy has been demonstrated in civilian and military populations.


PE Therapy is designed to help individuals who have PTSD caused by traumas such as rape, childhood sexual abuse, combat, motor vehicle accidents, or natural disasters.  This program has three components:

  1. Psychoeducation:  Increase the patient’s level of understanding of their diagnosis and the symptoms they are experiencing;
  2. Imaginal exposure:  Encourage the patient to repeatedly recount the traumatic memory, help participants retrieve missing information about the event, and assist them as they increase their ability to create an organized narrative of the event; and
  3. In vivo exposure:  Expose the patient, gradually, to situational aspects related to their trauma.   The impact of the trauma is reduced through the use of systematic desensitization techniques.
Previous Use 

PE Therapy is widely implemented by clinical psychologists across the United States and internationally.  Currently, PE Therapy is being implemented in numerous Veterans’ Hospitals.


The training workshop is for licensed mental health professionals. The training takes 4 days and is offered twice annually during the fall and spring semesters by faculty from the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania.  The cost to attend the workshop, including training and support materials (e.g., workshop binder, intervention therapist guide, client workbook) is $1100 per person.  Workshops fill quickly due to limited space.


Considerations for implementing this program include understanding that therapist burn-out may occur, acquiring funds for program training and implementation, and finding therapists to implement the program.

The Clearinghouse can help address these considerations. Please call 1-877-382-9185 or email


If you are interested in implementing PE Therapy, the Clearinghouse is interested in helping you!
Please call 1-877-382-9185 or email


PE Therapy requires between 8 and 20 sessions.  Each session lasts 90 minutes.


Costs to implement PE Therapy are built into the fees associated with training the therapists.

Evaluation Plan 

The Clearinghouse can help you develop an evaluation plan to ensure the program components are meeting your goals. Please call 1-877-382-9185 or email


Contact the Clearinghouse with any questions regarding this program.
Phone: 1-877-382-9185 Email:

You may also contact by mail the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, 3535 Market Street, Suite 600, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3309, phone 1-215-746-3327, fax 1-215-746-3311, or visit

*Resources and associated costs reflect those identified at the time of fact sheet publication.