Research Article


Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Rehabilitation Counseling

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Complex posttraumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) is a multifaceted disorder, and the specific diagnostic criteria developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), which highlight symptoms of CPTSD (i.e., affect dysregulation, negative self-concept, disturbed relationships), that occur along with PTSD symptoms speak to this. Understanding the disorder itself and its ramifications is essential as our society is exposed to seemingly more and more traumatic and long-lasting events, all of which may lead to an increase in the number of overall cases. CPTSD is characterized by changes in three primary areas of the brain – hippocampus, amygdala, and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC)– which are usually smaller in individuals with CPTSD, and there are certain subsets of individuals who have an increased likelihood of developing this disorder (e.g., individuals with physical and psychiatric disabilities, children exposed to long-term trauma).


The authors conducted a scoping literature review on CPTSD, treatment approaches for individuals with CPTSD, and rehabilitation implications.


Treatment for CPTSD is generally more extensive than treatment for PTSD and should be made available for those in need. There is a dearth of research on this topic in the rehabilitation literature; however, disability research has consistently shown that employment plays a huge role in successful recovery among individuals with psychiatric disabilities, which includes CPTSD.


In order to ensure client success, rehabilitation counselors, educators, and researchers must understand the complexities associated with CPTSD and then how to best go about incorporating this information into individual plans for employment and our classrooms as well as making research in this area a priority for the field.

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