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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Apr 18;(2):CD003388.

Psychological treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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Psychological Medicine, Cardiff University, Monmouth House, University Hospital of Wales, Heath Park, Cardiff, UK, CF4 4XW.

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Psychological interventions are widely used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


To perform a systematic review of randomised controlled trials of all psychological treatments except eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing following the guidelines of the Cochrane Collaboration.


Systematic searches of computerised databases, hand search of the Journal of Traumatic Stress, searches of reference lists, known websites and discussion fora, and personal communication with key workers.


Types of studies - Any randomised controlled trial of a psychological treatment. Types of participants - Adults suffering from traumatic stress symptoms for three months or more. Types of interventions - Trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy/exposure therapy (TFCBT); stress management (SM); other therapies (supportive therapy, non-directive counselling, psychodynamic therapy and hypnotherapy); group cognitive behavioural therapy (group CBT). Types of outcomes - Severity of clinician rated traumatic stress symptoms. Secondary measures included self-reported traumatic stress symptoms, depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, adverse effects and dropouts.


Data was entered using the Review Management software. Quality assessments were performed. The data were analysed for summary effects using the RevMan 4.2 programme.


Twenty-nine studies were included in the review. With regards to reduction of clinician assessed PTSD symptoms TFCBT did significantly better than waitlist/usual care (standardised mean difference (SMD) = -1.36; 95% CI, -1.88 to -0.84; 13 studies; n = 609). There was no significant difference between TFCBT and SM (SMD = -0.27; 95% CI, -0.71 to 0.16; 6 studies; n = 239). TFCBT did significantly better than other therapies (SMD = -0.81; 95% CI, -1.19 to -0.42; 3 studies; n = 120). Stress management did significantly better than waitlist/usual care (SMD = -1.14; 95% CI, -1.62 to -0.67; 3 studies; n = 86) and than other therapies (SMD = -1.22; 95% CI, -2.09 to -0.35; 1 study; n = 25). There was no significant difference between other therapies and waitlist/usual care control (SMD = -0.43; 95% CI, -0.90 to 0.04; 2 studies; n = 72). Group TFCBT was significantly better than waitlist/usual care (SMD = -0.72; 95% CI, -1.14 to -0.31).


There was evidence that individual TFCBT, stress management and group TFCBT are effective in the treatment of PTSD. Other non-trauma focused psychological treatments did not reduce PTSD symptoms as significantly. There was some evidence that individual TFCBT is superior to stress management in the treatment of PTSD at between 2 and 5 months following treatment, and also that TFCBT was also more effective than other therapies. There was insufficient evidence to determine whether psychological treatment is harmful. There was some evidence of greater drop-out in active treatment groups.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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