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Couple therapy helps with PTSD

thumbnail Couples coping with PTSD —VA researchers, with Canadian collaborators, explored the benefits of a therapy designed for couples in which one partner is coping with PTSD. (Photo: iStock)

A clinical trial conducted by psychologists at the Boston VA Healthcare System and a university research center in Toronto found benefits from a 15-session therapy program for couples in which one partner had posttraumatic stress disorder. Of the 40 couples in the study, half took part in the treatment immediately and the others were put on a wait list for it. Those with PTSD who received the therapy, a form of cognitive behavior therapy designed for couples with one PTSD-affected partner, showed significantly greater improvements in PTSD symptoms and relationship satisfaction, compared with those on the wait list. Most notably, post-treatment, 81 percent of the PTSD-affected partners who received the treatment no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, versus only 21 percent of those on the wait list. The gains were largely sustained three months after therapy ended. The researchers say the therapy makes sense because PTSD is strongly linked to problems with intimate relationships. Treating couples together, they say, can not only boost outcomes for those with PTSD, but also help their partners, who often experience caregiver burden and emotional distress. (Journal of the American Medical Association, Aug. 15, 2012)

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