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 Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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