Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018, Boston University School of Medicine
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

The findings, which appear in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, have important implications for treating PTSD especially with regard to identifying a treatment that is time-efficient for both and providers, addressing a significant barrier to care.

PTSD is a diagnosis incited by physical or psychological trauma and is characterized by flashbacks of past traumatic events, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, avoidance of reminders of trauma, sleep disturbance and hypervigilance leading to social, occupational and interpersonal impairment. PTSD treatment includes trauma-focused therapy, which includes Written Exposure Therapy (WET), a five-session psychotherapy program, or Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), a 12-session psychotherapy program that is considered to be a first-line PTSD treatment approach.

WET involves five trauma-focused sessions in which individuals are asked to write about their traumatic experiences followed by scripted instruction, while CPT is a 12-session program in which patients are taught to recognize and challenge dysfunctional cognitions about their traumatic event and current thoughts about themselves, others and the world around them. WET does not include any out-of-session assignments, while patients undergoing CPT are assigned out-of-session assignments following each session.

Through a , researchers analyzed 126 adults with a diagnosis of PTSD; 63 individuals were randomized to the WET treatment group and 63 individuals were randomized to the CPT treatment group. Their analysis concluded that WET, while involving fewer sessions, was just as effective as CPT in reducing PTSD symptoms.

"Our findings that WET is an efficient and efficacious as CPT for PTSD may reduce attrition and transcend previously observed barriers to PTSD for both patients and providers," said corresponding author Denise M. Sloan, PhD, professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and associate director in the Behavioral Science Division, National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston Healthcare System.

Explore further: Violence declines during intensive PTSD treatment, study says

Related Stories

Violence declines during intensive PTSD treatment, study says

December 22, 2017
Combat veterans diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experienced declines in violent behavior while undergoing treatment in an intensive Veterans Health Administration (VHA) PTSD program, according to a new ...

A new psychotherapy for overcoming trauma

February 2, 2016
A randomized controlled trial published in the current issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics sheds new therapeutic opportunities for overcoming trauma. Although there are effective treatments for posttraumatic stress ...

PTSD in children quickly and effectively treatable within hours

June 29, 2017
Children and adolescents with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be successfully treated with only a few hours of EMDR or cognitive behavioral writing therapy (CBWT). This is the finding of a new research paper by the ...

Study reveals areas of the brain impacted by PTSD

January 23, 2017
Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and the VA Boston Healthcare System are one step closer to understanding the specific nature of brain changes associated with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Some patients with dementia may experience delayed-onset PTSD

July 7, 2017
Delayed-onset post-traumatic symptoms in the elderly may be misdiagnosed as falling under the umbrella of behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD), according to a recent review.

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.

Recommended for you

Study suggests biological basis for depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances in older adults

October 15, 2018
UC San Francisco researchers, in collaboration with the unique Brazilian Biobank for Aging Studies (BBAS) at the University of São Paulo, have shown that the earliest stages of the brain degeneration associated with Alzheimer's ...

Early changes to synapse gene regulation may cause Alzheimer's disease

October 15, 2018
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, involving memory loss and a reduction in cognitive abilities. Patients with AD develop multiple abnormal protein structures in their brains that are thought to ...

Clues that suggest people are lying may be deceptive, study shows

October 12, 2018
The verbal and physical signs of lying are harder to detect than people believe, a study suggests.

How to avoid raising a materialistic child

October 12, 2018
If you're a parent, you may be concerned that materialism among children has been on the rise. According to research, materialism has been linked to a variety of mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, as ...

The long-term effects of maternal high-fat diets

October 12, 2018
If a mother eats a high-fat diet, this can have a negative effect on the health of her offspring—right down to her great-grandchildren. This is the conclusion drawn by researchers at ETH Zurich from a study with mice.

Study finds orgasm face and pain face are not the same

October 11, 2018
A team of researchers from the UK and Spain has found evidence showing that contrary to popular belief, the orgasm face is not the same as the pain face. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of ...

0 comments

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.