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”
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.
Early cognitive therapy offers hope for young with PTSD
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.”