Phase-based treatment versus immediate trauma-focused treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder due to childhood abuse: Randomised clinical trial

N. van Vliet*, R.J.C. Huntjens, M.K. van Dijk, N. Bachrach, M.L. Meewisse, A. de Jongh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

Background
It is unclear whether people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and symptoms of complex PTSD due to childhood abuse need a treatment approach different from approaches in the PTSD treatment guidelines.

Aims
To determine whether a phase-based approach is more effective than an immediate trauma-focused approach in people with childhood-trauma related PTSD (Netherlands Trial Registry no.: NTR5991).

Method
Adults with PTSD following childhood abuse were randomly assigned to either a phase-based treatment condition (8 sessions of Skills Training in Affect and Interpersonal Regulation (STAIR), followed by 16 sessions of eye-movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy; n = 57) or an immediately trauma-focused treatment condition (16 sessions of EMDR therapy; n = 64). Participants were assessed for symptoms of PTSD and complex PTSD, and other forms of psychopathology before, during and after treatment and at 3- and 6-month follow-ups.

Results
Data were analysed with linear mixed models. No significant differences between the two treatments on any variable at post-treatment or follow-up were found. Post-treatment, 68.8% no longer met PTSD diagnostic criteria. Self-reported PTSD symptoms significantly decreased for both STAIR–EMDR therapy (d = 0.93) and EMDR therapy (d = 1.54) from pre- to post-treatment assessment, without significant difference between the two conditions. No differences in drop-out rates between the conditions were found (STAIR–EMDR 22.8% v. EMDR 17.2%). No study-related adverse events occurred.

Conclusions
This study provides compelling support for the use of EMDR therapy alone for the treatment of PTSD due to childhood abuse as opposed to needing any preparatory intervention.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberE211
Number of pages7
JournalBJPsych Open
Volume7
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • EXPOSURE
  • PTSD
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • childhood experience
  • cognitive-behavioural therapies
  • dissociative disorders
  • individual psychotherapy

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