Meditation Programs for Veterans With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Aggregate Findings From a Multi-Site Evaluation

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Abstract

Objective: Interest in meditation to manage posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms is increasing. Few studies have examined the effectiveness of meditation programs offered to Veterans within Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mental health services. The current study addresses this gap using data from a multisite VA demonstration project. Method: Evaluation data collected at 6 VA sites (N = 391 Veterans) before and after a meditation program, and a treatment-as-usual (TAU) program, were examined here using random effects meta-analyses. Site-specific and aggregate between group effect sizes comparing meditation programs to TAU were determined for PTSD severity measured by clinical interview and self-report. Additional outcomes included experiential avoidance and mindfulness. Results: In aggregate, analyses showed medium effect sizes for meditation programs compared to TAU for PTSD severity (clinical interview: effect size (ES) = −0.32; self-report: ES = −0.39). Similarly sized effects of meditation programs were found for overall mindfulness (ES = 0.41) and 1 specific aspect of mindfulness, nonreactivity to inner experience (ES = .37). Additional findings suggested meditation type and program completion differences each moderated program effects. Conclusions: VA-sponsored meditation programs show promise for reducing PTSD severity in Veterans receiving mental health services. Where meditation training fits within mental health services, and for whom programs will be of interest and effective, require further clarification.

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