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Early cognitive therapy offers hope for young with PTSD

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Early cognitive therapy treatment is effective for children and adolescents with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to UK researchers.

They said their study into PTSD in children and adolescents has shown that cognitive therapy can be an effective treatment for 8-17 year-olds during the “early treatment window” after an event.

“Establishing that any active intervention is superior to ‘watchful waiting’ is essential”

Richard Meiser-Stedman

The research, led by the University of East Anglia, found 71% of those treated with cognitive therapy in the two- to six-month period after a trauma showed improvement, compared with those placed on a waiting list for the same period.

The researchers randomised 29 children and young people diagnosed with PTSD after a single-event trauma in the previous two to six months to receive cognitive therapy or go on a waiting list for 10 weeks.

They found 71% of the participants were free of PTSD after cognitive therapy, significantly more than the 27% who were on the waiting list.

Those who received cognitive therapy also saw greater improvement, as measured by child and parent-reported questionnaires of PTSD, depression and anxiety as well as clinician-rated functioning.

In addition, recovery after cognitive therapy for PTSD was maintained at six- and 12-months after treatment.

The research, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, was undertaken as few effective early treatments for PTSD in children and adolescents currently exist, said the researchers.

Richard meiser stedman

Early cognitive therapy offers hope for young with PTSD

Richard Meiser-Stedman

Lead study author Dr Richard Meiser-Stedman said: “This early treatment window is important as it is not known whether treatment in this period would have any advantage over natural recovery, which can occur up to six-months later.

“Establishing that any active intervention is superior to ‘watchful waiting’ is essential for the future refinement of early treatment approaches,” he said.

He added: “There is a need for much more research into treatments in this period, and the next step would be replication in larger samples.”


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Readers' comments (1)

  • The research is posted as Cognitive Therapy for PTSD. On reading the published abstract it's actually Cognitive and Behavioural Therapy that is offered, in that there is lots of Cognitive restructuring etc, but also, there are what have been noted as Behavioural Experiments.

    My point is that, be it youngsters or adults, attitude change follows behaviour change, it's not the other way around, and it's only when new behaviours are rehearsed and repeated (perhaps following reasoning sessions) that change is established and sustained.

    Even if Behavioural Experimentation, as part of treatment takes place outside of session, I would still label and promote this as CBT-PTSD, rather than how the research is described (promoted) as CT- PTSD. Why on earth the term Behavioural Psychotherapy (which is a mixture of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapy) is played down in preference to the less clear term Cognitive Therapy (which implies conversation and thinking experimentation only) is beyond me.

    From a Nursing point if view, this is important, as Nurses are ideally placed to incorporate the promotion of Behavioural Experimentation and Cognitive Restructuring into the everyday care/therapeutic planned activity of their young patients, especially if they are being treated also for others conditions, but showing also, some of the PTSD signals, as described in the research article.

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