Active duty and Ex-serving military personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder treated with psychological therapies: systematic review and meta-analysis.

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Neil J. Kitchiner, Catrin Lewis, Neil P. Roberts & Jonathan I. Bisson

https://doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2019.1684226

Background: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a major cause of morbidity amongst active duty and ex-serving military personnel. In recent years increasing efforts have been made to develop more effective treatments.
Objective: To determine which psychological therapies are efficacious in treating active duty and ex-serving military personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Method: A systematic review was undertaken according to Cochrane Collaboration Guidelines. The primary outcome measure was reduction in PTSD symptoms and the secondary outcome dropout.
Results: Twenty-four studies with 2386 participants were included. Evidence demonstrated that CBT with a trauma focus (CBT-TF) was associated with the largest evidence of effect when compared to waitlist/usual care in reducing PTSD symptoms post treatment (10 studies; n=524; SMD -1.22, -1.78 to -0.66). Group CBT-TF was less effective when compared to individual CBT-TF at reducing PTSD symptoms post treatment (1 study; n=268; SMD -0.35, -0.11 to -0.59). Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy was not effective when compared to waitlist/usual care at reducing PTSD symptoms post treatment (4 studies; n=92; SMD -0.83, -1.75 to 0.10). There was evidence of greater dropout from CBT-TF therapies compared to waitlist and Present Centred Therapy.
Conclusions: The evidence, albeit limited, supports individual CBT-TF as the first-line psychological treatment of PTSD in active duty and ex-serving personnel. There is evidence for Group CBT-TF, but this is not as strong as for individual CBT-TF. EMDR cannot be recommended as a first line therapy at present and urgently requires further evaluation. Lower effect sizes than for other populations with PTSD and high levels of drop-out suggest that CBT-TF in its current formats is not optimally acceptable and further research is required to develop and evaluate more effective treatments for PTSD and complex PTSD in active duty and ex-serving military personnel.

Keywords: Military personnel; post-traumatic stress disorder; Psychological therapies; Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Received 25 May 2019, Accepted 23 Sep 2019, Published online: 08 Nov 2019

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