Evidenced-Based Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: An Updated Review of Validated Psychotherapeutic and Pharmacological Approaches

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Learning objectives

After participating in this activity, learners should be better able to:

Learning objectives

• Evaluate psychotherapeutic and pharmacologic approaches to treating patients with posttraumatic stress disorder.

A strong evidence base exists for psychological and pharmacological interventions for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The published literature investigating the effectiveness of these treatments in reducing the symptoms and impairments associated with PTSD has expanded substantially in recent years. This review provides a concise overview of the empirical literature examining these treatment approaches. Evidence-based, trauma-focused therapies are recommended as first-line interventions, with the most support for cognitive- and exposure-based approaches. Prolonged exposure and cognitive processing therapy are the two most cited and rigorously investigated. Various other evidence-supported protocols are discussed. Pharmacotherapies can be used when evidence-based psychotherapies are not available or are ineffective, or on the basis of patient preference. Pharmacotherapy with the most support for PTSD includes selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. Evidence supports the implementation of these interventions across genders, populations, and settings. Given that little research directly compares the effectiveness of different PTSD interventions and their mechanisms of action, it remains uncertain how to best select and tailor treatments to optimize individual outcomes. Future directions and novel, ongoing research are discussed.

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