Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: It is unclear what psychological help should be offered in the aftermath of traumatic events. Similarly, there is a lack of clarity about the best way of identifying people who are unlikely to recover from early posttraumatic symptoms without intervention. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether cognitive therapy or a self-help booklet given in the initial months after a traumatic event is more effective in preventing chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than repeated assessments. DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial. Patients Motor vehicle accident survivors (n = 97) who had PTSD in the initial months after the accident and met symptom criteria that had predicted persistent PTSD in a large naturalistic prospective study of a comparable population. SETTING: Patients were recruited from attendees at local accident and emergency departments. INTERVENTIONS: Patients completed a 3-week self-monitoring phase. Those who did not recover with self-monitoring (n = 85) were randomly assigned to receive cognitive therapy (n = 28), a self-help booklet based on principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (n = 28), or repeated assessments (n = 29). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Symptoms of PTSD as assessed by self-report and independent assessors unaware of the patient's allocation. Main assessments were at 3 months (posttreatment, n = 80) and 9 months (follow-up, n = 79). RESULTS: Twelve percent (n = 12) of patients recovered with self-monitoring. Cognitive therapy was more effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and disability than the self-help booklet or repeated assessments. At follow-up, fewer cognitive therapy patients (3 [11%]) had PTSD compared with those receiving the self-help booklet (17 [61%]; odds ratio, 12.9; 95% confidence interval, 3.1-53.1) or repeated assessments (16 [55%]; odds ratio, 10.3; 95% confidence interval, 2.5-41.7). There was no indication that the self-help booklet was superior to repeated assessments. On 2 measures, high end-state functioning at follow-up and request for treatment, the outcome for the self-help group was worse than for the repeated assessments group. CONCLUSIONS: Cognitive therapy is an effective intervention for recent-onset PTSD. A self-help booklet was not effective. The combination of an elevated initial symptom score and failure to improve with self-monitoring was effective in identifying a group of patients with early PTSD symptoms who were unlikely to recover without intervention.

Original publication

DOI

10.1001/archpsyc.60.10.1024

Type

Journal article

Journal

Arch Gen Psychiatry

Publication Date

10/2003

Volume

60

Pages

1024 - 1032

Keywords

Accidents, Traffic, Bibliotherapy, Cognitive Therapy, Humans, Life Change Events, Pamphlets, Personality Inventory, Prospective Studies, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Severity of Illness Index, Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic, Survivors, Treatment Outcome