Study Examines Long-term Treatment Effects for Women with PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is treated in a number of ways, the most common of which is through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). “The specific CBT protocols of cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and prolonged exposure (PE) have both been demonstrated to be efficacious in ameliorating PTSD and comorbid depression, anxiety, guilt, and anger,” said Patricia A. Resick of the Department of Psychiatry at Boston University, and lead author of a recent study examining the long-term effects of PTSD treatment in women. “One important remaining question is whether PTSD symptom reductions resulting from CBT are long lasting.” The majority of research on the subject has only examined results extending one year or less after treatment. “The purpose of this study is to report the findings from a long-term follow-up (LTFU) assessment of a randomized controlled trial comparing CPT with PE as the control condition because it was the most established treatment at the time, as well as a waiting list control.”

For her study, Resick interviewed 126 female rape survivors who had been treated for PTSD a minimum of five years previously. “In the original trial, participants receiving either CPT or PE showed marked improvements in PTSD and depression, from pretreatment to post-treatment,” said Resick. “During the follow-up period, PE participants exhibited small decreases in self-reported PTSD symptoms that approached but did not reach statistical significance.”

Resick also discovered that the gains made were sustained equally for both groups over an average of six years. Surprisingly, the study also revealed that further treatment after the initial trial, and the addition of medication, did not decrease PTSD symptoms in either group, and in fact, the addition of medication made the symptoms worse. Resick added, “Unlike the situation with other psychological disorders, which have a high relapse rate, it appears that, in most cases, treatment improvements of PTSD symptoms and diagnosis are long-lasting.”

Resick, P. A., Williams, L. F., Suvak, M. K., Monson, C. M., & Gradus, J. L. (2011, December 19). Long-Term Outcomes of Cognitive–Behavioral Treatments for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Female Rape Survivors. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026602

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Murray


    December 30th, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    If something like this happens to you I can’t imagine that any amount of therapy will necessarily help you to completely overcome the symptoms of PTSD. I have heard rape survivors talk about how much they still think about the traumatic event that has happened to them, years and years later. I guess in cases like these it is all about the small steps and feeling good about the achievements that are made, no matter how small the step may be.

  • Lana


    December 31st, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    Like so many other ailments sometimes we think that adding meds to the mix is always going to make things all better but that is clearly not always going to be the case. I am a firm believer that the body and the spirit have a remarkable capacity for healing themselves with sometimes just a little bit of help. And that does not always have to mean adding medications to the regimen. In fact as we see here medications are not always the end all and be all, and may times they can make things worse, or at the very least not worthwhile at all.

  • amber


    January 2nd, 2012 at 6:44 AM

    wonder if the results would be the same or at least comparable for men. . .

  • FN


    January 2nd, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    Great to see stable and long lasting results from CBT.It has often popped up in treatments of a lot of disorders and hopefully it performs just as well there too.

  • MaveRick


    January 3rd, 2012 at 8:36 AM

    “For her study, Resick interviewed 126 female rape survivors who had been treated for PTSD a minimum of five years previously.”

    If treatment goes on for this long,there can be no doubts about how much of an effect rape could have on a victim.Only more reason to make the punishment so stern that the crime reduces.

  • cathy


    January 3rd, 2012 at 12:46 PM

    now that it has been proven to be effective in the long run it needs to be promoted so that more and more people can benefit from it.PTSD is one disorder wherein a continued treatment may be necessary and it is also necessary that the effects are long lasting.happy to see that the methods prevalent today can ensure this.

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