Health Team

Duke leads largest PTSD cognitive therapy trial

Posted December 1, 2016
Updated December 2, 2016

Duke leads largest PTSD cognitive therapy trial

— Dr. Patricia Resick, with Duke Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, led the largest trial to date in active duty military with 250 participants at Fort Hood in Texas diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD.

Resick said after losing those they cared about, overwhelming grief and trauma will affect veterans and active duty service members for years. Service members may blame themselves, which is the root of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“So the event keeps coming back at them again and again and again,” said Resick.

The most-researched therapy is called Prolonged Exposure.

“Having them recall in detail the trauma over and over and over again, until it takes sort of the emotional power out of it,” Resick said.

In a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, clinical psychologists and post-doctoral fellows were trained to administer CPT at Fort Hood.

The patient does not relive traumatic events and instead thinks through them rationally.

“How could you have known that this was going to happen in advance? I mean, isn't that the definition of an ambush?” Resick said.

The goal is to change their thinking pattern, and it involves 12 sessions over the course of six weeks.

“If you change your thoughts, you change your feelings,” Resick said.

Some participants were randomized into group therapy, where 37 percent lost their PTSD diagnosis. Those in individual therapy did even better with 50 percent cured. Many who were not cured of PTSD said the therapy still benefited them.

“Their life is still quite a bit different because they have very mild symptoms instead of very severe symptoms,” Resick said.

Resick said every VA Hospital in the country is now prepared to offer this effective therapeutic approach.

Resick said the same PTSD Cognitive Processing Therapy can also be effective with civilians. Duke is also conducting an ongoing study for people between the ages of 40 to 65 who are diagnosed with PTSD to see if the therapy can also improve heart function.

To participate in the Duke study, contact: Louise Carter, 919-668-6040


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