Cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder: a review
Department of Psychiatry, Wolverhampton City Primary Care Trust, Wolverhampton, UK
Background: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric sequel to a stressful event or situation of an exceptionally threatening or catastrophic nature. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been used in the management of PTSD for many years. This paper reviews the effectiveness of CBT for the treatment of PTSD following various types of trauma, its potential to prevent PTSD, methods used in CBT, and reflects on the mechanisms of action of CBT in PTSD.
Methods: Electronic databases, including PubMed, were searched for articles on CBT and PTSD. Manual searches were conducted for cross-references in the relevant journal sites.
Results: The current literature reveals robust evidence that CBT is a safe and effective intervention for both acute and chronic PTSD following a range of traumatic experiences in adults, children, and adolescents. However, nonresponse to CBT by PTSD can be as high as 50%, contributed to by various factors, including comorbidity and the nature of the study population. CBT has been validated and used across many cultures, and has been used successfully by community therapists following brief training in individual and group settings. There has been effective use of Internet-based CBT in PTSD. CBT has been found to have a preventive role in some studies, but evidence for definitive recommendations is inadequate. The effect of CBT has been mediated mostly by the change in maladaptive cognitive distortions associated with PTSD. Many studies also report physiological, functional neuroimaging, and electroencephalographic changes correlating with response to CBT.
Conclusion: There is scope for further research on implementation of CBT following major disasters, its preventive potential following various traumas, and the neuropsychological mechanisms of action.
Keywords: post-traumatic stress disorder, cognitive behavioral therapy, prevention, treatment, mechanisms of action, trauma
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