Cognitive Processing Therapy May Treat PTSD in Soldiers

Flag patch on soldier's uniformCognitive processing therapy (CPT) may be an effective treatment for posttraumatic stress (PTSD) in soldiers, according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry. The study is the largest randomized clinical trial of PTSD treatment in active-duty soldiers. It found both group and individual CPT could reduce symptoms, but individual therapy produced greater symptom reduction.

The study was initiated by the STRONG STAR Consortium, an initiative that researches combat-related PTSD, including its prevention, detection, and treatment options.

Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD in Soldiers

Cognitive processing therapy was specifically designed to reduce symptoms of trauma. Usually conducted over 12 sessions, CPT draws upon principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT endeavors to help participants detect and correct thoughts that negatively affect their emotions and behavior. CPT aims to change the way survivors think about traumatic experiences by helping them regain a sense of control over their lives.

To assess the effectiveness of CPT in active-duty soldiers, researchers followed 268 active-duty service members.  The soldiers each sought treatment at an army medical center between March 8, 2012, and September 23, 2014. Each participant had an official PTSD diagnosis, experienced stability with medication, and had no history of psychosis. Participants had not experienced homicidal or suicidal thoughts.

The participants were randomly assigned to either group or individual CPT. Soldiers in group CPT participated in 90-minute sessions twice a week with groups of 8-10 other participants. Service members in individual CPT also underwent twice-weekly treatment, but sessions lasted 60 minutes.

Two weeks into treatment and six months after treatment, researchers assessed for symptoms of PTSD and depression. To reduce the possibility of bias, evaluators did not know whether participants had undergone individual or group therapy.

Both groups experienced a reduction in PTSD symptoms, though the individual group experienced a significantly greater reduction. About half of those who received individual therapy no longer qualified for a clinical diagnosis of PTSD. Participants in both individual and group therapy experienced similar reductions in depression.

Further Research Needed for PTSD Treatment

These findings suggest people with PTSD may not necessarily need to undergo long-lasting and intensive therapy. Because about half of the participants still experienced PTSD symptoms, however, the study’s authors plan to continue their research. The STRONG STAR Consortium plans to evaluate how substance abuse and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) might affect treatment outcomes.

References:

  1. Active-duty military find PTSD relief through individual cognitive therapy. (2016, November 23). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161123143612.htm
  2. Cognitive processing therapy (CPT). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://deploymentpsych.org/treatments/cognitive-processing-therapy-cpt
  3. Resick, P. A., Wachen, J. S., Dondanville, K. A., Pruiksma, K. E., Yarvis, J. S., Peterson, A. L., . . . Young-Mccaughan, S. (2016). Effect of group vs individual cognitive processing therapy in active-duty military seeking treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder. JAMA Psychiatry. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.2729

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  • Jacqui

    November 30th, 2016 at 10:25 AM

    I strongly believe that for many of those who suffer with PTSD that it does all boil down to feeling like they have some control over their lives, that these past traumatic experiences should not have to harm them nor should they have to define them like they have had happen to them.
    It is nice to know that there are so many different approaches available to those with PTSD and if one thing doesn’t work, then hey, there’s always something else out there that a good therapist is going to be willing to try with you.
    I just hope that people do not lose hope and continue to seek out help until they settle on those things that can actually help them feel safe again.

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