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Help for PTSD without therapist?

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Due to the lovely state of f'd up "health insurance" in the USA, I have crappy insurance that doesn't pay for therapy, and I make "too much money" to qualify for government or charity insurance. When I checked to see if I could pay for therapy myself, turns out it would cost me monthly about what my rent is (several hundred dollars, in other words).


But I lately find myself getting PTSD-triggered by some old stuff I've never dealt with before, and I would like to process and be rid of it before I become a basket case and lose my job (which happened last year from triggering).


Is it possible to help oneself recovery from PTSD and triggers? Like can one do one's own "exposure therapy" by writing about or saying out loud what happened over and over again until it isn't a trigger anymore? That kind of thing...


If I was able to see a therapist, I would - so I'm looking for ideas or info about ways to help myself until if and when I can.

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I'm sorry you're having trouble finding access to therapy. 


The problem with doing exposure therapy yourself is that sometimes it's hard to recognise when you are becoming overwhelmed. It's at that stage a therapist is handy because they can realise and help ground you back to the present. People with PTSD sometimes struggle with self-harm and suicidal ideation. As you reduce avoidance responses your symptoms may get worse before it gets better, and if getting worse could have safety issues then it's dangerous to DIY treatment.


Another big part of therapy is challenging beliefs you have formed as a result of the trauma, and that is difficult to do on your own.


What you could do without a therapist is educate yourself about PTSD. Whilst I was in therapy I did what you're suggesting about writing down the trauma and rereading it. It was ultimately very helpful but it was painful and I wouldn't have done it without knowing I had professional support.


Things I found helpful in addition to therapy:

  • Developing self-soothing skills. I used the skills treatment manual for linehan but you could try the dbtselfhelp site.
  • Reading the happiness trap by Russ Harris and learn about cognitive diffusion for painful thoughts, memories, feelings and sensations. 

There is a site here http://www.moodjuice.scot.nhs.uk/posttrauma.asp I haven't used it personally but it looks quite helpful. 

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Second or third-ing that treating PTSD on one's own is very, very difficult.


Please don't try exposure therapy on your own. You can make things worse and therefore more difficult to effectively deal with later.


You might try asking the places that you make too much money to go to if there are any low-cost therapy organizations in your area... something like these: 





I just happen to know about those because I've lived in these areas.

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I am/was in the same situation as you, GumbyLives.


When new memories emerged I attempted to go it alone without therapy. My PTSD escalated until I required a therapist. After a horrible one who had too many issues of her own, I found another low cost therapist who has a true sliding scale fee based on income. The first one claimed to have sliding scale fee but it was not based on income.


There is a new government program in the US which started after all the school shootings (especially the last one in Connecticut). If a therapy group qualifies for it then lower cost therapy is available through them. I believe there is some type of subsidy from the government. The therapy group usually consists of a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and several therapists. I got a recommendation from my pdoc to one of these therapy groups.


I am on a limited income and need to be in therapy four times a month because of my symptoms and the memories from childhood.

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A lot of therapists will charge on a sliding scale based on the person's ability to pay. Did you explain your financial situation and ask for a break on fees? This is a common thing to do, but a lot of people don't know to ask.


Your local Mental Health Department can probably refer you to low cost services in your area. Some may work on a sliding scale, so making too much money for aide may not rule you out of getting a price break. Here, the county runs the department.


You could see if your insurance covers psychiatrists. They are medical doctors and often are handled differently from therapists by insurance companies. Therapy by a pdoc may be treated the same as by a therapist for billing purposes, so I am thinking more about the medicines that can help. I think of the pharma as more of a short-term stop gap until you find a therapist. Meds sometimes are used in conjunction with therapy, too, so having a pdoc in the picture later might be good. Equally, if not more important, pdocs know therapists. You may be able to get a referral to an affordable one.


You could explain the situation to your regular doc. She may be able to refer you to a reasonably priced therapist or low cost services. She may also be willing to prescribe you something short-term.


I'm not advocating meds in lieu of therapy! Just saying that they may help short-term until you get into therapy. Therapy is how to move through and treat PTSD. Meds can just help alleviate the symptoms.



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Depending on the nature of your trauma, sometimes there are workbooks out there. For me, I tried a fair few workbooks first.

They never went far enough (they can't). It really isn't something that you can do on your own, unfortunately, as everyone else has said so eloquently.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm sorry that you lost your job due to triggers...it sucks being triggered at work (and in general). I also lost a job in part to problems with my PTSD.  I agree with the previous posts that treating yourself for PTSD isn't a good idea. Lots of great suggestions here! I hope that you can find a tdoc that can help you!

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