Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder by Exposure and/or Cognitive Restructuring: A Controlled Study

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Abstract

Background

Unanswered questions from controlled studies of posttraumatic stress disorder concern the value of cognitive restructuring alone without prolonged exposure therapy and whether its combination with prolonged exposure is enhancing.

Methods

In a controlled study, 87 patients with posttraumatic stress disorder of at least 6 months' duration were randomly assigned to have 10 sessions of 1 of 4 treatments: prolonged exposure (imaginal and live) alone; cognitive restructuring alone; combined prolonged exposure and cognitive restructuring; or relaxation without prolonged exposure or cognitive restructuring.

Results

Integrity of audiotaped treatment sessions was satisfactory when rated by an assessor unaware of the treatment assignment. Seventy-seven patients completed treatment. The pattern of results was similar regardless of rater, statistical method, measure, occasion, and therapist. Exposure and cognitive restructuring, singly or combined, improved posttraumatic stress disorder markedly on a broad front. Gains continued to 6-month follow-up and were significantly greater than the moderate improvement from relaxation.

Conclusion

Both prolonged exposure and cognitive restructuring were each therapeutic on their own, were not mutually enhancing when combined, and were each superior to relaxation.

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