How do I help someone with PTSD? The answer from Artificial Intelligence vs Therapists

Artificial intelligence (AI) is in the news, and there is a lot of discussion. Some people are concerned about what it will mean. With headlines like “Meet ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence chat bot that could take your job”.

How worried does a trauma therapist need to be? We thought we would test it out. So, we asked the AI engine ChatGPT “How do I help someone with PTSD.” We also asked a clinician of 20 years, and a new psychology registrar working in the same area of trauma, PTSD and CPTSD. In order of presumed experience (we presume the AI has less experience) here are some answers. With a notation of time to complete.

How do I help someone with PTSD?

Clinician with 20 years’ experience.

  • If you know someone with a diagnosis of PTSD, the first step might be finding out as much as you can about what PTSD is. Some reputable sources are:
    • Phoenix Australia
    • International society for traumatic stress studies ISTSS
  • As with all mental health problems – PTSD is not the person, it happens because something has happened to them.
  • PTSD is treatable, and people do recover.
  • Supporting the person in seeking treatment and staying in treatment are key to recovery. This can be difficult because one of the key symptoms of PTSD is that people try to avoid talking about it, or anything that may be a reminder of the trauma. Sometimes these things don’t even look like they might be connected to the trauma.
  • The most researched therapies for trauma are called trauma focussed therapies and include Prolonged Exposure (PE), Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT).
  • 5-minute mark
  • All of these therapies are recommended first line treatments, even before medications.
  • If you have been living with someone with PTSD for a long time, self-care is also an important factor.
  • Symptoms like anger can be difficult to manage, as can symptoms of guilt which may result in the person with PTSD being depressed and withdrawn. All of these can be stressful on a relationship.
  • Treatments for PTSD don’t take forever, and research shows that with encouragement to continue attending therapy people are able to complete therapy, and have good outcomes.
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The Psychology registrar’s answer

In short, you can help support someone with PTSD, but you cannot treat them and help them recover from PTSD.

Like with anyone going through a difficult time, you can help them by providing emotional support, or help them do things that they find difficult, empathize with what they’re saying, and generally make them more comfortable in some way.

But this is different to helping someone get better from PTSD, as that requires treatment in the form of psychotherapy. This is because PTSD is a clinical disorder where ordinary support from others does not help to reduce their symptoms or recover from the processing of the trauma event.
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CHAT GPT’s answer

Supporting someone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be a challenging but very important task. Here are some things you can do to help:

  1. Encourage them to seek professional help: PTSD can be a complex mental health condition that often requires professional treatment. Encourage the person to seek out a mental health professional, such as a therapist or psychiatrist.
  2. Be patient and understanding: People with PTSD can experience a range of symptoms, including flashbacks, nightmares, and emotional numbness. It’s important to be patient and understanding with them, and to avoid judgment or criticism.
  3. Listen to them: It’s important to let the person know that you are there for them and that you are willing to listen. Encourage them to talk about their experiences and listen without judgment.
  4. Help them practice self-care: Encourage the person to practice self-care, such as getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and engaging in physical activity. These practices can help to reduce stress and improve their overall well-being.
  5. Respect their boundaries: It’s important to respect the person’s boundaries and not pressure them into talking about their experiences or doing anything that makes them uncomfortable.
  6. Educate yourself: Learn as much as you can about PTSD so that you can better understand the person’s experience and how to best support them.
  7. Offer practical support: Offer to help the person with everyday tasks, such as grocery shopping, cooking, or cleaning. This can help to reduce their stress and give them more time to focus on their recovery.
    Remember that supporting someone with PTSD can be a long and challenging process, and it’s important to take care of your own mental health as well. If you feel overwhelmed or unsure about how to help, consider seeking out support from a mental health professional or support group.
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Chat GPT look like it gives some good, reasonable answers. These answers were similar to an experienced clinician or a clinician new to the field. Of course, these answers are to generic questions.
What did you notice?