Researcher looks at new treatment for military personnel with PTSD

November 13, 2017 by Marjorie S. Miller, Pennsylvania State University
Researcher looks at new treatment for military personnel with PTSD
Steffany Fredman, assistant professor of human development and family studies, is leading treatment interventions for military personnel and veterans with PTSD and their families, with the goal of determining if the interventions are effective at treating PTSD and improving family relationships. Credit: Adobe Stock Photographee.eu

Military deployment can be associated with increased risk of mental health problems for military service members and veterans as well as psychological distress in the spouses and children of the deployed, a risk that increases with longer deployment, according to research.

Part of the problem is that only a small number of military personnel and veterans receive treatment for (PTSD) incurred during deployment, according to recent studies. And for those who do seek help, treatment options too often fail to accommodate the schedule constraints of service members, veterans and their families.

Steffany Fredman, assistant professor of human development and family studies and the Karl R. Fink and Diane Wendle Fink Early Career Professor for the Study of Families at Penn State, and fellow researchers are working to find a treatment solution for service members and veterans with PTSD and their spouses that is both feasible for and effective.

"Post-traumatic stress disorder is a life-disrupting, frequently chronic condition that can cause devastating problems," Fredman said. "Numerous studies have documented an association between PTSD symptoms and impaired intimate relationship functioning in active military and veteran couples, including relationship distress, physical and psychological aggression, and partner psychological distress. We also know that the quality of a trauma survivor's intimate relationships can promote or impede recovery from PTSD."

With Candice Monson of Ryerson University in Ontario, Canada, Fredman co-developed Cognitive-Behavioral Conjoint Therapy (CBCT) for PTSD. CBCT for PTSD is a 15-session couple therapy for PTSD that is also designed to enhance intimate relationship functioning. 

In prior work, Fredman and colleagues have found that this program is helpful in both treating PTSD symptoms and enhancing couples' relationships. However, the format of 15 sessions over 15 weeks presented challenges—such as time and schedule conflicts—which could interfere with patients receiving the full course of treatment.

To alleviate these problems, Fredman and colleagues began developing intensive weekend retreats for active duty service members and veterans with PTSD and their partners.

The retreats are currently being evaluated as part of a research study being conducted under the auspices of the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD. Jointly funded by the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD is a national research group led by the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the VA's National Center for PTSD, with a network of co-investigators from across the country, working together to find the best ways to diagnose, prevent and treat combat-related PTSD and related conditions.

Held in Central Texas near the U.S. Army's Fort Hood, the retreats deliver months' worth of PTSD treatment condensed into one weekend that is taught in a multi-couple, group format.

"The rationale for the intensive weekend retreat format is that it's sometimes logistically challenging for both members of a couple to attend treatment during the typical 8 to 4:30 hours at the VA or DoD clinics and for them to attend all 15 weekly treatment sessions, which is typically preceded by three or four sessions of assessment to determine if the treatment might be a good fit in the first place," Fredman said. "This format has the potential for rapid dissemination and implementation, while capturing the majority of the benefits of the original therapy format."

The pilot study involves the recruitment of 24 couples to attend 12-hour, retreat-style workshops over the course of a weekend at a hotel in Austin, Texas, about an hour away from Fort Hood. The study includes seven weekend retreats in total, with two to six couples treated at each workshop.

Following the retreats, Fredman and colleagues will evaluate whether the intervention is effective in decreasing PTSD and associated symptoms, such as depression, anxiety and anger; improving partners' ; and increasing both partners' relationship satisfaction.

Investigators believe that providing the therapy in a non-military, non-VA setting helps reduce the stigma of seeking mental health care. An added expected benefit is that participating in a program with other couples will provide social support for couples coping with the effects of PTSD.

Therapists with extensive experience working with active duty service members and veterans with PTSD lead the workshops.

They provide couples with an understanding of how PTSD and intimate relationships affect one another, and guide the couples in ways to think, feel and behave differently in order to improve the service member or veteran's PTSD symptoms, the couples' relationship health, and the partners' psychological well-being.

Oftentimes, addressing a couple's problem and learning that it is treatable can improve a relationship.

"In short, the couple's relationship is the vehicle for change," Fredman said.

The study has been recruiting both active-duty service members and veterans who are diagnosed with PTSD and in committed, partnered relationships. To be eligible, both members of each couple must be available to participate in intensive treatment delivered over one weekend.

"A number of couples have said that, without this format, they would not have been able to participate in treatment due to work conflicts or the fact that some are geographically separated during the work week," Fredman said. "They have also found great support and comfort from interacting with the other couples attending the retreat, as it helps them to recognize that they are not the only ones grappling with the effects of PTSD on their relationship, and to learn vicariously as other couples describe how they are using the skills taught during the retreat over the course of the weekend."

Data analysis and interpretation will be conducted following the last cohort of couples. If the pilot study proves successful, the research team hopes to conduct a randomized controlled trial of accelerated, multi-couple CBCT for PTSD through a larger study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense and/or Department of Veterans Affairs.

Explore further: Combat-related PTSD calmed by yoga therapy

Related Stories

Combat-related PTSD calmed by yoga therapy

November 8, 2017
For thousands of years, yoga has been used to calm both mind and body.

The psychological toll of shame in military personnel

October 25, 2017
Feelings of shame may make the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) more severe in current and former members of the Armed Services.

Veterans and their partners see less trauma and distress symptoms after intensive retreat

April 27, 2016
Military veterans returning from combat situations face a higher risk—above most other populations—of developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms, which may include flashbacks, night terrors, and intense ...

Ketamine not linked to PTSD in military trauma setting

October 17, 2017
(HealthDay)—Ketamine administration is not associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the military trauma setting, according to a study published online Oct. 3 in Anaesthesia.

Australian-first trial offers faster treatment for PTSD

February 3, 2017
An Australian-first research program will help improve treatment for up to one million Australians with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Investigating effectiveness of new PTSD treatment

July 20, 2017
A novel approach of using visual and physical stimulus to help military veterans address their traumatic experiences could soon play a significant role in helping British veterans overcome post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), ...

Recommended for you

How people cope with difficult life events fuels development of wisdom, study finds

February 21, 2018
How a person responds to a difficult life event such as a death or divorce helps shape the development of their wisdom over time, a new study from Oregon State University suggests.

When it comes to our brains, there's no such thing as normal

February 20, 2018
There's nothing wrong with being a little weird. Because we think of psychological disorders on a continuum, we may worry when our own ways of thinking and behaving don't match up with our idealized notion of health. But ...

Jymmin: How a combination of exercise and music helps us feel less pain

February 20, 2018
Pain is essential for survival. However, it could also slow the progress of rehabilitation, or in its chronic form could become a distinct disorder. How strongly we feel it, among other factors, depends on our individual ...

College roommates underestimate each other's distress, new psychology research shows

February 19, 2018
College roommates are sensitive to their roommates' distress but tend to underestimate the level of distress being experienced by others, finds a newly published study from New York University psychology researchers.

New approaches in neuroscience show it's not all in your head

February 16, 2018
Our own unique experiences shape how we view the world and respond to the events in our lives. But experience is highly subjective. What's distressing or joyful to one person may be very different to another.

Link between hallucinations and dopamine not such a mystery, finds study

February 16, 2018
Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) and New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) found that people with schizophrenia who experience auditory hallucinations tend to hear what they expect, ...

4 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

BubbaNicholson
1 / 5 (2) Nov 13, 2017
250mg of healthy adult male facial skin surface lipid liquid pheromone, "male face grease", taken 1 time by mouth alleviates all symptoms of PTSD in about eight seconds. The relief is apparent. The pheromone taken by mouth (on a chewing gum vehicle) relieves the underlying pheromone deficiency at the root of PTSD and many other sociopathies as well.
The 735 chemicals in the pheromone have the same stereochemical oddities that differentiates pheromones in other species. The "brush border" microvillar cells that line 1/2 of the entire upper respiratory system uniquely in humans (and scattered through the alimentary canal) are identical to the microvillar cells that perceive pheromones in dozens of other species. The vet/MD divide perpetuates medical ignorance in this regard. Among the 735 known species is sebaleic acid which is unique to the face of man. Sapienic acid, nearly as rare, is also a major component. Every human is chemically unique (See Nicolaides, N. Science 1975).
BubbaNicholson
1 / 5 (2) Nov 13, 2017
The pheromone becomes airborne (more volatile species) sub-pheromones which are emotionally dangerous, not to health but to mental attitude. The aversive pheromones cause superstition (I am completely serious), hatred (Captain Stumpy will be along in a few moments), arrogance, incompetence, suspicion, distrust, and jealousy--all artificially. Use fume hoods, negative air pressure, respirators, activated charcoal dunnage, and fans with barrier materials to try to diminish airborne sub-pheromone staff and family exposure. Isolate treated patients for 40 days until the pheromone wears off the saliva, no kissing. Establish objective, off-site evaluation procedures, otherwise progress will go under or un-reported. Artificial jealousy/unease in osculation partners is quite common, but telling them about it ahead of time does not diminish the feelings or their intensity.
It may be possible to Pasturize the pheromone with activated charcoal enough to render it harmless, but not likely
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Nov 26, 2017
@bubba the pseudoscience FRAUD
alleviates all symptoms of PTSD in about eight seconds
No, it does not

recovery from PTSD requires long-term treatment due to the physiological changes in the brain
Extensive neuroimaging studies on the brains of PTSD patients show that several regions differ structurally and functionally from those of healthy individuals
http://brainblogg...e-brain/

before you spout off further pseudoscience, learn about PTSD: https://www.scien...07007040

if that is too hard for you, I can provide links to grade school level data so as not to challenge your literacy issues

reported for fraud

Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Nov 26, 2017
@bubba the FRAUD
hatred (Captain Stumpy will be along in a few moments),
there is no hatred for you as a person as I am fully cognizant of your mental deficiencies and criminal past

I will, however, continue to represent and support scientific endeavours and refute your fraudulent claims

given your recidivism, criminal action and fraudulent prescription of psychotropics while not being licensed, It behoves one such as me to continue to educate those who read after your fraudulent claims

by providing validated claims that can be supported by links and references your own posts are invalidated

I will also continue to collect your data to present to the medical board and prosecuting attourney in your state, per their request

need I remind you that I've already linked both federal and state statutes to you?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.