Original Research

Trauma survivors’ perceptions and experiences of prolonged exposure for PTSD at a psychology clinic

Duane D. Booysen, Ashraf Kagee
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 29 | a1869 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v29i0.1869 | © 2023 Duane D. Booysen, Ashraf Kagee | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 January 2022 | Published: 27 February 2023

About the author(s)

Duane D. Booysen, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
Ashraf Kagee, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa


Background: Several trauma-focused treatments have been developed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yet there are limited studies on how trauma survivors perceive and experience trauma-focused treatments such as prolonged exposure therapy (PE) for PTSD, especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC).

Aim: The study aimed to explore the perceptions and experiences of trauma survivors receiving prolonged exposure therapy for PTSD and the general acceptability of PE for PTSD in a LMIC.

Setting: The study was conducted at a community psychology clinic in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Method: Using a qualitative method, seven adult trauma survivors who completed six sessions of brief PE for PTSD were interviewed. Thematic analysis was used to identify relevant themes and to understand how participants perceived and experienced PE for PTSD.

Results: The analysis yielded five themes, namely structure, obstacles, gender, exposure and experiences of recovery.

Conclusion: The findings suggested that participants perceived and experienced PE to be generally beneficial for the treatment of PTSD. Moreover, the study suggested that PE is an acceptable trauma therapy in a contextually diverse setting such as the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Overall, considering the evidence base of PE for PTSD, this study contributed to the literature on the acceptability of PE in a South African setting.

Contribution: The findings of the study are in keeping with the extant literature on how persons perceive and experience PE for PTSD. The findings of the study suggests that PE is an acceptable and beneficial trauma therapy for PTSD in a contextually diverse setting such as South Africa. It is recommended that large scale implementation studies be conducted to further investigate the effectiveness, feasibility, and acceptability of PE in South Africa.


Low-resource community; psychotherapy; post-traumatic stress disorder; prolonged exposure; trauma.


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Crossref Citations

1. Trauma-Informed Care in Psychedelic Therapy Research: A Qualitative Literature Review of Evidence-Based Psychotherapy Interventions in PTSD and Psychedelic Therapy Across Conditions
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Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment  vol: Volume 20  first page: 109  year: 2024  
doi: 10.2147/NDT.S432537