Ehlers and Clark PTSD (A 5 point guide)

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In this guide, we will discuss the definitions that the authors have Ehlers and Clark about the PTSD

Ehlers and Clark PTSD 

Over the years, various authors have created a series of models that explain the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. The purpose of each of them is to be able to define this disorder, its symptoms and create a series of strategies that can help the person overcome trauma caused by PTSD. Ehlers and Clark have created a cognitive behavioural model in which they explain how the process occurs from the moment the person is exposed to the traumatic event and the reactions it presents after, and a therapeutic model that helps overcome the disorder.

Ehlers and Clark PTSD model contemplates a series of processes where the individual develops the PTSD and how it is maintained. The first is the evaluation of trauma and its consequences. In this section, the authors explain two types of evaluations that occur after the person experiences the traumatic event. The first is the evaluation of the traumatic event, where the person exaggerates the event, which leads him to perceive his daily life situations as threatening and dangerous. The second type is the evaluation of the sequelae of traumatic experience. Here the person expresses the feelings generated by the traumatic event.

In the second, Ehlers and Clark PTSD model express the differences present in traumatic memory with other autobiographical memories. Here the person shows the inability to remember the traumatic event in its entirety, just remember some fragments and in a disorganized way. There is also the involuntary appearance of memories, where the person can come memories about the traumatic event at any time of the day.

The third is the relationship between the memory of the trauma and the evaluation of the trauma. Here the subject has memories about the traumatic event, but only the fragmented parts he remembers. This makes the person only keep those memories that make the event remember negatively and I cannot overcome it.

In the fourth process, Ehlers and Clark PTSD model proposes the relationship between cognitive processes and maladaptive behaviours. Here the authors express that the memories that the person has about the event can lead them to perform maladaptive behaviours. Here the person acts based on the interpretation he has about the events.

In the fifth, there is the cognitive processing that the person has during the trauma. Here people tend to develop negative aspects after the traumatic event. These types of thoughts make the PTSD remain and it is more difficult for the person to face it.

Finally, there are the characteristics of the trauma, previous experiences and beliefs and current status. Here the relationship that may exist between a person’s previous beliefs and the characteristics of the trauma is expressed. A person who has experienced a traumatic event in the past may have greater difficulty processing the last event as expressed by the authors. The person generates great confusion and uncertainty to process and understands the event.

It can be seen how the Ehlers and Clark model of PTSD tries to cover in a complete way how the symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder develop. The model emphasizes the interpretations that the person has of the event since these are the ones that cause the person to feel threatened or in danger.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a mental illness that appears after the person has witnessed a traumatic event or situation. There are people who after having witnessed a traumatic event get over it and continue with their lives in a normal way, but there are others who fail to deal with what they have experienced and here begins to develop PTSD. Situations such as war, rapes, meteorological phenomena such as an earthquake or hurricane, physical abuse, a serious accident or terrorist attack.

PTSD may appear at different times, depending on the person. There are some that after the traumatic event, PTSD manifests the symptoms right away. In other people, PTSD may appear after a month. Anyone can suffer from PTSD, even children.

PTSD symptoms

Among the most common symptoms of PTSD are:

  • Flashbacks, nightmares or memories that arise instantly at any time of the day.
  • Hallucinations where the person believes that the traumatic event is repeated.
  • High levels of anxiety when coming into contact with places, situations or people that remind you of the traumatic event.
  • Avoidance of people, situations or places that remind you of the traumatic event.
  • Difficulty in breathing, strong palpitations and extreme sweat whenever the memory of the traumatic event comes.
  • Loss of interest in activities that once caused the person fun.
  • Trouble sleeping, irritability and inability to concentrate.
  • Inability to remember details that are of utmost importance about the traumatic event.

Treatment for PTSD according to Ehlers and Clark PTSD model

Ehlers and Clark PTSD therapy is based on the model created by both authors to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. The authors express that the PTSD is established in the person when he is, the traumatic event he lived or witnessed, processes it in a way that leads to a sense of serious threat.

From the Ehlers and Clark PTSD model, the authors created a cognitive therapy to treat the disorder. Both express that for each patient an individualized version of the model is developed, in which the components that cause the problems are identified and what are the factors that retain it. The causative factors of PTSD are addressed as follows:

  • Correction of the disturbance of the autobiographical memory of the trauma
  • Modification of negative assessments that are given in excess
  • Elimination of cognitive and behavioural strategies that do not work

In the first factor, correction of the disturbance of the autobiographical memory of the trauma, the person is explained that avoiding or trying to cancel the thoughts only makes them stay longer and find it more difficult to overcome the traumatic event. It inquires about the reasons why the person avoids thoughts. While it is true that the person avoids or cancels them is because they do not want to revive them, we must let them know that this type of behaviour can only lead to worsening symptoms.

From the information given by the patient about the reasons for avoiding or cancelling the thoughts related to the traumatic event, the therapist helps the person to create a coherent narrative that begins before the trauma and ends by making the patient feel safe. The purpose of performing this autobiographical memory of the trauma helps the person identify the perceptions they have about the event.

For the person to be able to modify the excessive assessments that he has about the trauma, it is important to ask questions about the critical points, that is, those that generate the most tension and negative feelings. To identify these critical points, the person must describe the event, especially in the present. When negative ratings arise, they are modified through cognitive restructuring. An example of these is that the person can go to the place where the event occurred and realize that because it is there does not mean it will happen.

And finally, so that the person can abandon cognitive and behavioural strategies that do not work, it is important that the person first recognizes that the actions he has taken to avoid trauma are only a short-term result. The patient must understand that reliving the event will not cause it to happen again, instead, reliving it helps the person to change the meanings they have about the event and which causes the symptoms of PTSD.

To summarize the cognitive therapy of Ehlers and Clark PTSD, it seeks that the person can completely relive the event using actions such as questionnaires, expose themselves to the place where the event occurred and that the patient can see that nothing will happen and work on the perceptions you have about the event which cause the symptoms of the disorder.

FAQs about Ehlers and Clark PTSD

How to help a person who refuses to receive treatment for PTSD?

You cannot force a person to receive treatment since it will not be as effective as if it wishes. It is important to make the person aware and make it understand the positive change its life can give if it decides to accept the treatment for its PTSD.

What is the difference between Ehlers and Clark PTSD Cognitive Therapy from other models that treat the disorder?

Ehlers and Clark PTSD Cognitive Therapy is a therapeutic process that starts from its explanatory model about PTSD, which is inclusive and contemplates many aspects about the person before, during and after experiencing trauma.

What positive aspects does it have for the person to relive the traumatic event?

Within the Ehlers and Clark PTSD cognitive therapy, it is explained that reliving the traumatic event in its entirety helps the person to change the meanings attributed from the beginning. Apart from that, in many cases, the person only remembers partial events and not everything in its entirety, and these may be the ones that cause the anguish and negativity that the disorder causes.

Is cognitive therapy effective for PTSD?

Several studies have been carried out to verify the effectiveness of cognitive therapy against disorders such as PTSD and the results express that cognitive therapy is effective not only for PTSD but for other types of mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.

How can a person with PTSD receive this type of treatment?

These types of therapies should be given by health professionals, who are specialized in the area.


Ehlers and Clark PTSD definition seeks to explain more broadly and inclusively how Post-traumatic Stress Disorder affects the person. Its model and cognitive therapy allow the person to immerse themselves in a process where they can deal with the traumatic event, specifically identify the reason for the interpretations and how to overcome it.

A person with PTSD sees their daily life very difficult. It is afraid to go through a similar situation again and that is why it tries at all costs to avoid situations, people or places that remind of the traumatic event or where it feels that its life is in danger. The positive of all this is that cognitive therapy gives good results and the person when he decides to treat this disorder, can get great benefits and start living its life in the way it had been before.

Recommended links

  1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for PTSD A Case Formulation Approach
  2. Clinician’s Guide to PTSD, Second Edition: A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach
  3. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Cognitive Therapy with Children and Young People (CBT with Children, Adolescents and Families) 


  1. Posttraumatic stress disorder: The development of effective psychological treatment 
  2. Ehlers and Clark PTSD model 

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