Popular post-traumatic stress disorder therapies for veterans promoted by the federal government may not be as effective as once thought, according to a new study.
A new medical study published by The Journal of the American Medical Association found that two trauma-based therapies, which are preferred options for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Defense, worked for about a third of the veterans tested and it was unsuccessful for up to two-thirds.
The researchers of the study said it points to the need for more flexibility with treatment options.
“It’s not accurate to say these treatments don’t work – they do work but there are mixed outcomes,” Dr. Maria Steenkamp said. “Different people respond to different treatments.”
The VA has shared stories of veterans with PTSD who described the help they got through trauma-based therapies.
Those treatments directly address memories and feelings from the traumatic events.
"By reliving some of the scariest moments of my life when I was in Iraq, you learn that it's there, but the intensity of the memory goes away,” one veteran said in the video clip for the VA.
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The study looked at cognitive processing therapy known as CPT and prolonged exposure therapy known as PE.
The study also found that non-trauma based PTSD therapies had similar success rates as trauma-based therapies.
“There are multiple roads to recovery,” Steenkamp said. “There are many different options.”
A spokesperson for the VA said the study failed to “accurately characterize VA’s approach to treating PTSD and disregards competing evidence that shows trauma-focused treatments such as prolonged exposure and cognitive processing therapy are the most effective PTSD treatment options currently available.”
The VA said it offers a variety of options including trauma-focused and non-trauma-focused treatments for PTSD as well as medications.
Most veterans with PTSD receive treatments other than PE or CPT, or in addition to PE and CPT, including complementary and integrative practices such as meditation and yoga, the spokesperson said.
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