New Study Examines Effectiveness of Seeking Safety for Women with PTSD

Seeking Safety is a brief therapeutic treatment that incorporates cognitive behavioral techniques in order to decrease substance misuse in people suffering from post-traumatic stress. Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) are common in individuals who have experienced a traumatic event, and the majority of women being treated for SUDs have reported prior traumas. Because SUD and PTSD are commonly comorbid, many new treatments designed to address both issues have begun to emerge. Seeking Safety is one such a treatment.

Denise A. Hien of the Department of Clinical Psychology at City College in New York recently conducted a study to determine if Seeking Safety was as effective as other standard treatments for substance use and post-traumatic stress. Using data collected from National Institute on Drug Abuse National Drug Treatment Clinical Trials Network (NIDA CTN), Hien and her colleagues examined 353 women as they participated in the Seeking Safety program or a traditional treatment program. The participants were evaluated for PTSD and SUD symptoms weekly during treatment, and again 3, 6, and 12 months after they completed their treatment.

Of the participants, Hein noticed three specific types of attenders. Completers were those who attended at least 80% of the sessions, droppers were those who dropped out after the third session, and titrators were those participants who adhered to treatment regularly for six or seven sessions but then attended irregularly from that point on. At the conclusion of her study, Hein found that the titrating participants in the Seeking Safety program showed the most improvement, specifically for alcohol use. She said, “Our findings underscore the importance of considering dose–response (albeit latent in this case) and treatment group composition to better identify for whom and to what degree a specific treatment might work.” Hein added, “More fundamentally, these study findings should prompt providers to consider that female patients with comorbid PTSD and SUD may be in the best position to determine when, how often, or which sessions to attend; such perspectives might not only be empowering to patients but might be efficacious as well.”

Hien, D. A., Morgan-Lopez, A. A., Campbell, A. N. C., Saavedra, L. M., Wu, E., Cohen, L., Ruglass, L., & Nunes, E. V. (2011, December 19). Attendance and Substance Use Outcomes for the Seeking Safety Program: Sometimes Less Is More. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026361

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  • Cheri M

    Cheri M

    January 13th, 2012 at 4:23 PM

    I would love to know just how many women who live with PTSD also are afflicted with some sort of addiction in their lives as well. And also whether the addiction came about as a result of trying to cope with the after effects of something traumatic that happened to them or if this was something that they were already dealing with before the event occurred and triggeredd the PTSD.

  • savannah


    January 14th, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    Is the seeking safety method available everywhere or is this something that is only found in larger venues?

  • Ginny


    January 14th, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    For many women experiencing pain like this it is good for them to know that there is a name to associate with the pain that they are feeling. Many may not have sought treatment because they do not even know what the root cause of the issue could be. For some it could be that one event but for others it could be a devastating culmination of life events that they have never learned how to deal with and manage. Hopefully the more we talk about it the more we will find the right treatments for those in suffering and who are in need of help.

  • Kurt


    January 16th, 2012 at 5:43 AM

    Brief treatment? How brief and how effective if it happens for such a short period of time?

  • kel


    January 16th, 2012 at 11:39 PM

    well the effectiveness of sessions would differ from one person to another if you ask may be beneficial to you if you first attend a few sessions and then be irregular but for me it may require a sustained effort.

    so sticking to schedule and attending sessions will be the best way forward.

  • Peter


    January 17th, 2012 at 5:10 PM

    Programs such as these which try to help and improve the lives of people that often find themselves in a maze really make me happy. 100% success is not possible but to see a program become success is a great feeling.

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