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Is TPM similar to Exposure Therapy (ET)?

Is TPM similar to Exposure Therapy (ET)?

No. There are many fundamental differences between ET and Theophostic Prayer Ministry (TPM). The only similarity is that they both deal with memory yet in very different ways and for different reasons. The basic concepts behind this form of therapy are not new and have been around for a long time.

"In the 1980's, Dr. Terence M. Keane… found that exposure therapy was effective in treating the PTSD symptoms of Vietnam War veterans. Exposure therapy, previously known as Imaginal Flooding Therapy, involves carefully exposing the patient to prolonged and repeated imagined images of the trauma until the images no longer cause severe anxiety. In Keane's randomized clinical trial involving 24 Vietnam veterans, Keane found that exposure therapy was effective in reducing many of the veteran's PTSD symptoms, including nightmares, flashbacks, memory and concentration problems, and irritability."

"Research by Dr. Edna B. Foa and her colleagues showed that exposure therapy was effective in reducing PTSD symptoms of rape victims, including persistent fear. The improvements were seen immediately after exposure therapy, and were shown to be sustained during a three-month follow-up."

"Exposure therapy is based on the principle that we get used to things that are just annoying and not truly dangerous. This is called habituation, and it occurs naturally in over 95% of people…Exposure therapy is based on the idea that… habituation must occur in the person who has been traumatized if they are to overcome PTSD. Exposure therapy asks patients to confront, in a safe way, the very situations, objects, people and memories they have attached to the trauma (and are probably very consciously avoiding). Exposure therapy is the opposite of the typical, self-prescribed avoidance approach. Because while avoidance may provide temporary relief, it just doesn't last. Facing these triggers is the key to reducing the frequency and severity of PTSD symptoms… Escaping discomfort only reinforces avoidance as a coping tactic, and produces all the limitations associated with avoidance—like avoiding safe places or situations that might be fun, beneficial or essential for a career and a full family life. It also increases the likelihood that the anxiety might spread, first to similar triggers and eventually to triggers that have little or nothing to do with the original anxiety. Examples of exposure in vivo are resuming driving after being in a traumatizing accident or returning to a now-safe site where an assault once occurred. Exposure in imagination involves the person recounting traumatic memories until they lose their sting. This can be done by saying them aloud repeatedly, writing, reading and rewriting a biography of the events or recording them on a tape and playing them over and over until they are no longer distressing."

I used a similar form of therapy back when I was working with incest survivors before TPM was developed. I believed then that if I could expose the women in the survivor's group I was leading to their traumatic memory over and over they would eventually be bothered less by it. I did see some measure of reduction in their symptoms, but I never saw any of them reach a place of complete resolution or lasting peace. I believe that the reason that I did see some measure of symptom reduction was when the person was exposed to the traumatic memory over and over it was giving her a new experience that was off setting the lies she was holding. Lies such as "I am still there," "I am going to die," "The abuser is going to get me again," etc. were common. All of these lies were based upon what happened to them in the trauma but where no longer true for the person in her present life. Revisiting the trauma and facing it over and over did provide the experiential truth that they were safe now and that their situation had changed.

Two primary fundamental differences between exposure Therapy and TPM is primary understanding the memory plays in each process and the means of resolving the traumatic symptoms. TPM does not focus on the traumatic memory itself or believe that the memory is the problem. ET assumes that revisiting the place of the trauma brings value where as TPM only goes to the memory because it is where the belief is held. TPM does not ask the person to continually revisit or reinterpret the memory, but rather seeks to identify the specific lie-based thought that is causing the traumatic symptoms. It is assumed by TPM that the lie is the source of the on going post traumatic symptoms and not the trauma itself. The second fundamental difference is that TPM assumes that only the person of Jesus Christ can completely release a person of the lies he or she believes and it is only His peace that is permanent. However, if people are finding lasting resolution using this form of therapy I rejoice with them. Nevertheless, I do pray that they will also find Christ if He is not already a part of their journey.

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