Study adds to evidence on cognitive processing therapy for sexual trauma
A recent VA study on cognitive processing therapy added to the evidence suggesting the therapy is effective for PTSD stemming from military sexual trauma. (Photo: iStockphoto)
Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is one of two evidence-based psychotherapies to treat posttraumatic stress disorder that VA has been strongly promoting. (The other is prolonged exposure therapy.) But researchers are still investigating which therapies work best for whom, and in which formats.
In a study of 73 women and 13 men who had experienced military sexual trauma, researchers with the VA North Texas Health Care System and the University of
Texas Southwestern Medical Center compared CPT against present-centered therapy.
In CPT, patients learn skills to examine and change their negative thoughts, feelings, and beliefs surrounding the trauma. Unlike exposure therapy, CPT
does not have patients reimagine, or re-experience on some level, the trauma. Present-centered therapy offers supportive counseling focused on the client's
current-day challenges, rather than the trauma itself.
The Veterans in the study received 12 individual sessions of one therapy or the other. They were assessed several times over the next six months. Both
groups made progress, but the CPT group showed greater improvements in PTSD and depression symptoms.
The researchers say the results confirm what has been found on studies of civilians with PTSD related to sexual trauma. In fact, CPT was originally
developed to treat rape victims, and was later expanded to other populations, such as combat Veterans.
Candice Monson, PhD, and Patricia Resick, PhD, of VA's National Center for PTSD, played a key role in developing CPT. They are the coauthors of a manual
that is used by VA counselors who deliver the therapy to Veterans.
(Journal of Traumatic Stress, online Jan. 16, 2013)