Cognitive Therapy Reduces Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms

Online cognitive approach compares favorably to online supportive counseling program

FRIDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) -- A comparison of two Internet-based therapy programs for military service members with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) found greater success with a cognitive therapy approach than with a supportive counseling approach, researchers report in the November issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Brett T. Litz, Ph.D., of the Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues randomly assigned 45 service members with PTSD to two intervention protocols, each of which lasted eight weeks. Subjects were evaluated at baseline, after treatment, and at three- and six-month follow-ups.

The self-management cognitive behavior therapy program focused on training subjects in self-monitoring techniques, confidence-building, awareness of triggers and stress management strategies. The supportive counseling program focused on concerns and problems not related to the source of the trauma and encouraged writing online about those experiences. Participants in the self-management cognitive behavior therapy reported sharper declines in mean total PTSD symptom severity, avoidance and hyperarousal symptoms. They also experienced significantly greater declines in depression symptoms relative to the supportive counseling group.

"Self-management cognitive behavior therapy is a potential solution to the demand for efficient, low-cost, and stigma-reducing interventions for traumatic stress," the authors conclude, "especially in the military, in disaster contexts, and in the emergency services."

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