Researchers at the National Center for PTSD in White River Junction, Vermont find that prolonged exposure therapy is an effective treatment for PTSD in female veterans, as compared with supportive therapy.. Researchers at the National Center for PTSD and the V.A. Medical Center in White River Junction, Vermont, compared the efficacy of prolonged exposure therapy (a form of cognitive behavioral therapy) with supportive, present-centered therapy in 277 women veterans and 7 active duty personnel with posttraumatic stress (PTSD).

Participants were randomly assigned to receive prolonged exposure (n = 141) or present-centered therapy (n = 143), delivered according to standard protocols in 10 weekly 90-minute sessions.

PTSD symptom severity was the main outcome tested for, with comorbid symptoms, level of functioning, and quality of life evaluated as secondary outcomes. Blinded assessors collected data before and after treatment and at 3- and 6-month follow-up.

The study found that the women who received prolonged exposure experienced greater reduction of PTSD symptoms as compared to the women who received present-centered therapy (effect size, 0.27; P = .03). The prolonged exposure group was more likely than the present-centered therapy group to no longer meet PTSD diagnostic criteria (41.0% vs 27.8%; odds ratio, 1.80; 95% confidence interval, 1.10-2.96; P = .01) and achieve total remission (15.2% vs 6.9%; odds ratio, 2.43; 95% confidence interval, 1.10-5.37; P = .01). Effects were consistent over time in longitudinal analyses, although in cross-sectional analyses most differences occurred immediately after treatment.

The study concludes that prolonged exposure is an effective treatment for PTSD in female veterans and active-duty military personnel and that it is feasible to implement prolonged exposure across a range of clinical settings.

Citation: Schnurr PP, Friedman MJ, Engel CC, Foa EB, Shea MT, Chow BK, Resick PA, Thurston V, Orsillo SM, Haug R, Turner C, Bernardy N. Cognitive behavioral therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder in women: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2007 Feb 28; 297 (8): pages 820-30. [email protected]