Researcher looks at new treatment for military personnel with PTSD

November 13, 2017 by Marjorie S. Miller
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

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

Abusive avatars help schizophrenics fight 'voices': study

November 24, 2017
"You're rubbish. You're rubbish. You're a waste of space." The computer avatar pulls no punches as it lays into the young woman, a schizophrenia sufferer, facing the screen.

Ten-month-old infants determine the value of a goal from how hard someone works to achieve it

November 23, 2017
Babies as young as 10 months can assess how much someone values a particular goal by observing how hard they are willing to work to achieve it, according to a new study from MIT and Harvard University.

Domestic violence turns women off masculine men

November 23, 2017
Women who are afraid of violence within partnerships prefer more feminine men, according to new research carried out by scientists at the University of St Andrews.

Stress in pregnancy linked to changes in infant's nervous system, less smiling, less resilience

November 23, 2017
Maternal stress during the second trimester of pregnancy may influence the nervous system of the developing child, both before and after birth, and may have subtle effects on temperament, resulting in less smiling and engagement, ...

Study finds infection and schizophrenia symptom link

November 22, 2017
If a mother's immune system is activated by infection during pregnancy, it could result in critical cognitive deficits linked to schizophrenia in her offspring, a University of Otago study has revealed.

Schizophrenia drug development may be 'de-risked' with new research tool

November 22, 2017
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) have identified biomarkers that can aid in the development of better treatments for schizophrenia.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) 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).
1 / 5 (1) 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

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.