Improving effectiveness of therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

This project examines whether a modified version of an existing therapy (Cognitive Processing Therapy, CPT) improves outcomes for those who have developed PTSD as result of military service or work as first responders.

We have a number of evidence-based treatments that work for a reasonable number of PTSD sufferers. But there is still substantial room for improvement. In military clients, between 20-30% will drop out of treatment prematurely and 40-64% will fail to lose their PTSD diagnosis by the end of treatment.

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is an effective treatment for PTSD, however it might be further improved by incorporating modifications that address problems which sometimes get in the way of successful therapy. For example, at times PTSD is accompanied by significant depression or substance abuse that prevents individuals fully engaging in the trauma-focussed work required to overcome the PTSD. At other times, individuals might have difficulties managing or tolerating strong emotions which makes them hesitant to embark on PTSD work due to fears of escalation of symptoms.

Professor Nixon and colleagues have developed a flexible adaption of CPT which allows some deviation from the standard CPT approach to addresses these challenges. This modified approach has been piloted successfully in a largely civilian sample (Nixon & Bralo, 2019) and also within a randomised trial recently completed as part of a PhD by Dr Marja Elizabeth, supervised by Professor Nixon, that is being prepared for publication. The current project examines the effectiveness and feasibility of this adapted CPT for active duty members, veterans, and first responders. The project will continue throughout 2021 (for more information go to Flinders Posttraumatic Stress Clinic).

Professor Reg Nixon (Flinders), Dr Tara Galovski (National Center for PTSD, USA), Professor David Forbes (University of Melbourne)

Research being undertaken thanks to the Prabha Sheshadri Grant from the Road Home / the Hospital Research Foundation



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