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New study casts doubt on effectiveness of psychotherapy treatments for military-related PTSD

Published on 04/02/20 at 12:14pm

A recent review of clinical trials shows that first-line psychotherapies are limited in how effectively they treat veterans with PTSD.

The research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and led by researchers at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine. It summarized the findings of recently conducted clinical trials of two well established first-line cognitive-behavioral psychotherapies in their treatment of PTSD. One was Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) and the other was Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). The report concluded that these both showed limited effectiveness.

The research also showed that for military related PTSD therapies, like PE and CPT, which activate and process traumatic memories, was not more beneficial than treatment that doesn’t require the patient to focus on traumatic events.

Charles Marmar, Chair of Psychiatry at NYU Grossman School, commented on his teams research, saying: “Cognitive behavioral therapy's limited value for treating military service related PTSD suggests the need to go beyond the one-size-fits-all approaches rolled out in most VA and DoD healthcare settings and personalize treatment, accounting for pre-service vulnerabilities and complex, repeated exposures to warzone stressors.

“In the meantime, current clinical trials strongly suggest that treating military-related PTSD involves significant clinical complexity and heterogeneity. For many who have served in the military, a course of standardized, trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy for PTSD is emotionally demanding and likely to result in only modest clinical improvement.”

This research comes following an April 2019 study by Stanford University where civilians with PTSD did not respond to prolonger exposure therapy.

Conor Kavanagh

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