Evidence-Based Treatment Approaches for Troops with PTSD

Nearly 20% of the 2.6 million troops deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq report symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is associated with hyperarousal, avoidance, and disturbing or reoccurring flashbacks, all of which affect mental and physical health.

The Department of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) have recommend four treatment approaches for PTSD: Prolonged Exposure (PE) Therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Stress Inoculation Therapy (SIT), and Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy. While there has been little empirical research indicating that EMDR and SIT are effective for PTSD, there is considerable research supporting the effectiveness of both PE and CPT. As a result, the VA has mandated that PE and CPT be available to all patients with PTSD. PE uses imagined and in vivo exposure to help patients confront trauma-related stimuli and extinguish fear responses. CPT targets trauma-related maladaptive cognitions by exposing patients to their own thoughts as they write about their traumas. According to the current review, four randomized control trials (RCTs) support the efficacy of PE for military-related PTSD and one RCT and one uncontrolled effectiveness study provide initial support for the efficacy of CPT in treating military-related PTSD.

Even though the VA has mandated PE and CPT for veterans and military service men and women with PTSD, it is important for clinicians who work with this population (both within and outside the VA) to educate their clients about evidenced based treatment to promote retention and recovery.

Steenkamp, M. M., & Litz, B. T. (February 01, 2013). Psychotherapy for military-related posttraumatic stress disorder: Review of the evidence. Clinical Psychology Review, 33, 1, 45-53.