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Psychother Psychosom. 2009;78(5):298-306. doi: 10.1159/000229768. Epub 2009 Jul 24.

Narrative exposure therapy versus interpersonal psychotherapy. A pilot randomized controlled trial with Rwandan genocide orphans.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany.



The aim of the present study was to evaluate the efficacy of treatment modules for trauma spectrum disorders in a sample of Rwandan genocide orphans.


Twenty-six orphans (originally 27) who presented with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at first assessment continued to meet a PTSD DSM-IV diagnosis 6 months after their initial assessment. They were offered participation in a controlled treatment trial. A group adaptation of interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT, n = 14) was compared to individual narrative exposure therapy (NET, n = 12). The last NET session involved guided mourning. Each treatment program consisted of 4 weekly sessions. Main outcome measures were diagnostic status and symptoms of PTSD and depression assessed before treatment, at 3 months post-test and at 6 months follow-up using the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale, Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview, and Hamilton Rating Scale.


At post-test, there were no significant group differences between NET and IPT on any of the examined outcome measures. At 6-month follow-up, only 25% of NET, but 71% of IPT participants still fulfilled PTSD criteria. There was a significant time x treatment interaction in the severity of PTSD [Wilks' Lambda = 0.75, F(2,23) = 3.93; p < 0.05] and depression symptoms [Wilks' Lambda = 0.23, F(2,23) = 3.40; p = 0.05]. At follow-up, NET participants were significantly more improved than IPT participants with respect to both the severity of symptoms of PTSD and depression.


Individual NET in combination with group-based mourning comprises an effective treatment for traumatized survivors who have to bear the loss of loved ones and have been suffering from symptoms of PTSD and depression.

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