Evaluating Postdeployment Training for Coping With Intrusive Cognition: A Comparison of Training Approaches

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Objective: Although intrusive cognition (IC) is remarkably common in soldiers postdeployment and successful coping with ICs may predict better long-term psychological health, few elements of current programmatic postdeployment trainings have directly addressed adaptive strategies for managing intrusive deployment-related cognitions. The current study explored the efficacy of a brief acceptance-based skills training for coping with ICs relative to a change-based skills training, a psychoeducation-only training, or training as usual. Method: Participants were 1,524 (1,372 men) active-duty U.S. Army soldiers between 3 and 12 months’ postdeployment. Results: Soldiers who received acceptance-based training demonstrated larger reductions in distress and impairment related to ICs about deployment at 1 month follow-up and larger reductions in symptoms of PTSD and general psychopathology relative to other training conditions. In contrast, participants in the change-oriented skills training showed relatively fewer benefits than did those in the acceptance-based training. In addition, soldiers who received the psychoeducation-only training showed no benefits relative to training as usual. Conclusions: Results suggest that brief trainings focused on postdeployment ICs may have benefits for soldiers up to 1 month later and may be a useful addition to a broader postdeployment transition program. Findings also indicate that an acceptance-based training approach may be more beneficial than a change-oriented approach for helping soldiers manage ICs and that psychoeducation alone may be insufficient for helping soldiers manage these cognitions.

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