Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious problem among active-duty military personnel,
especially those returning from combat deployment. More data are needed
on the efficacy of individual and group therapy treatment for
An article published online by JAMA Psychiatry suggests that individual sessions of cognitive processing therapy (CPT) - a trauma-focused treatment that teaches patients more balanced thinking about traumatic events - were better at reducing the severity of post traumatic stress disorder in active-duty military members, although group sessions also were effective.
Patricia A. Resick of the Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C., and coauthors conducted a randomized clinical trial of 268 active-duty personnel seeking treatment for PTSD at Fort Hood, Texas, after being deployed near Iraq or Afghanistan. The participants were nearly all men (91%) with an average age of 33.
The authors report greater improvement in PTSD severity when participants received CPT in individual compared with group sessions, although improvements were maintained during the six-month follow-up in both groups, according to the results. Patients assigned to individual CPT had about twice as much improvement.
Depression and suicidal ideation improved equally with both forms of CPT. Still, about 50% of the participants, including those receiving individual CPT, still had PTSD and significant symptoms.
Possible explanations for why patients in individual CPT may have fared better include that those in group received less individual attention and those who missed group CPT sessions missed content that could not be replaced, the authors report.
Limitations to the study include patients lost to treatment because of military discontinuation.
"Cognitive processing therapy delivered in an individual format was more efficacious in treating symptoms of PTSD compared with CPT delivered in a group format. Significant reductions in PTSD were maintained during a six-month follow-up. To our knowledge, these findings are the strongest to date with regard to existing treatments for PTSD in active-duty military and veterans, but more work is required to improve outcomes," the study concludes.