The Importance of Psychoeducational Material that is Trauma-sensitive for the Survivor and the Practitioner

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) is a common disorder altering the lives of millions of people. Yet, there is little training available for survivors or practitioners.

This article will explain what CPTSD is, the difference between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and CPTSD, and some resources to help educate survivors and providers of mental and physical care.

The Symptoms of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Although CPTSD is not yet recognized as a diagnosis, the disorder’s symptoms are plain to see. It was proposed in 1988 by Dr. Judith Herman that the new diagnosis of complex post-traumatic stress disorder needed to receive recognition to describe the symptoms of long-term trauma.

Many people lose contact with themselves and their loved ones because they are too overwhelmed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

Some of the recognizable symptoms of CPTSD are:

These symptoms will not go away without proper treatment and may last a lifetime. It is critical to note, and we will discuss this later, that CPTSD has some overlapping symptoms with PTSD but has glaring dissimilarities.

The Differences Between Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The critical difference between CPTSD and PTSD is what causes these two debilitating disorders. CPTSD is caused by long-term trauma. These traumas include:

Post-traumatic stress disorder is related to experiencing a single traumatic event such as:

The events that cause post-traumatic stress disorder are shorter but highly traumatizing, causing some wicked symptoms.

The symptoms of PTSD are also different. They include:

Clearly, each disorder has its own symptoms, causes, and effects.

Providing Trauma Psychoeducation

Unfortunately, there remains an enormous gap in both survivors’ and providers’ education about complex post-traumatic stress disorder. It cannot be stressed strongly enough how desperately survivors and providers need education on CPTSD to help themselves and those who come to them for help.

A paper written by Bethany J. Phoenix states that teaching people about trauma and its effects helps survivors and providers understand their own stress responses and acknowledge coping strategies that provide a sense of control over their emotions.

The paper said that education about the persistent effects of trauma helps survivors better understand their own stress responses, and knowledge of coping strategies provides a sense of control over these responses. Trauma education for providers can minimize negative countertransference and prevent vicarious traumatization.

Phoenix stated in the conclusion of her paper, “Advanced practice psychiatric nurses may provide psychoeducation to people who suffer from complex psychological and behavioral disturbances related to severe and persistent abuse or trauma, especially early in life.”

Publications About Trauma and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

A growing amount of literature is being published of books that teach readers about CPTSD and how to overcome its effects. One author, Pete Walker, has an extensive website outlining the different aspects of trauma and discusses different treatment methods of complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

Pete Walker has also written a book, Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving. In his work, Walker outlines a map to help survivors and providers understand the almost linear progression of healing. The book also helps people identify the signs of recovery and develop sensible expectations of healing.

Another helpful book that takes about CPTSD is The Complex PTSD Workbook: A Mind-Body Approach to Regaining Emotional Control and Becoming Whole by Dr. Arielle Schwartz.

Dr. Schwartz’s book teaches all about complex post-traumatic stress disorder to give survivors of childhood trauma and their provider’s insight into the symptoms associated with CPTSD and encourages survivors to take their healing into their hands. Readers will discover examples and exercises that uncover instances of trauma expert guidance to explore somatic therapy, CBT, and mind-body perspectives. The book helps readers find the tools to work through CPTSD and regain emotional control.

Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence- From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Dr. Judith Herman is a groundbreaking book that redefines how we think about and treats trauma victims. Dr. Herman argues that psychological trauma cannot be separated from its social and political context.

The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk is a book that has opened many people’s eyes to the effects and aftermath of trauma. Dr. van der Kolk, a foremost expert on trauma who spent over thirty years working with survivors, writes how trauma reshapes the Body and brain of survivors and affects their ability to experience pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust.

The book also explores different paths to recovery, such as neurofeedback, meditation, drama therapy, and yoga that activate neuroplasticity.

Some other publications and websites help teach survivors and providers about complex post-traumatic stress disorder as well.

Ending Our Time Together

There are vast differences between PTSD and CPTSD. As yet, the diagnosis of complex post-traumatic stress disorder is not recognized in the psychiatric community. However, as evidence builds for its existence and the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) lists it as a diagnosis, it is only a matter of time before it is recognized in the United States by the American Psychological Association.

Both survivors and providers of care need to learn more about CPTSD to overcome its life-altering effects. As more providers become trained in the treatment of CPTSD, it will become much easier for survivors to receive the care they need and deserve.

The list of books and websites I mentioned above is only a partial list of the books and websites that cover the different aspects of CPTSD. CPTSD Foundation is dedicated to spreading the word about the realities of living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and we invite you to visit our site.


Phoenix, Bethany J. (2007). Psychoeducation for Survivors of Trauma. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care Vol. 43, №3.

If you are a survivor or someone who loves a survivor and cannot find a therapist who treats complex post-traumatic stress disorder, don’t hesitate to contact the CPTSD Foundation. We have a staff of volunteers who have been compiling a list of providers who treat CPTSD. They would be happy to give you more ideas about where to look and find a therapist to help you. Go to the contact us page and send us a note stating you need help, and our staff will respond quickly to your request.

Are you a therapist who treats CPTSD? Please consider dropping us a line to add you to our growing list of providers. You would get aid in finding clients and help someone find the peace they deserve. Go to the contact us page and send us a note, and our staff will respond quickly.

Shortly, CPTSD Foundation will have compiled a long list of providers who treat complex post-traumatic stress disorder. When it becomes available, we will put it on our website

Visit us and sign up for our weekly newsletter to help keep you informed on treatment options and much more for complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Successfully equipping complex trauma survivors and practitioners with compassionate support, skills, and trauma-informed education since 2014.

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CPTSD Foundation

Successfully equipping complex trauma survivors and practitioners with compassionate support, skills, and trauma-informed education since 2014.