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Group Mindfulness-Based Therapy Shows Promise for Combat Stress

24 Mar

Researchers from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor investigated the feasibility, appeal, and clinical efficacy of an MBCT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) group intervention, adapted for combat-related posttraumatic stress, or PTSD, as the VA still calls it.
Consecutive patients seeking treatment for chronic PTSD at a VA outpatient clinic were enrolled in 8-week MBCT groups, modified for posttraumatic stress (four groups, n = 20) or brief treatment-as-usual (TAU) comparison group interventions (three groups, n = 17).
Pre- and post-therapy psychological assessments used the CAPS scale (clinician administered PTSD scale) on all patients.  In addition, the MBCT groups filled out , self-report measures (the PTSD diagnostic scale, PDS, and the posttraumatic cognitions inventory, PTCI).

The results in intent to treat analyses showed significant improvement in PTSD (CAPS (t(19) = 4.8, P < .001)) in the MBCT groups, but not the TAU conditions.  There was also a significant Condition × Time interaction in the MBCT completers (F[1,35] = 16.4, P < .005).
In addition, MBCT completers (n = 15, 75%) showed good compliance with assigned homework exercises, and significant and clinically meaningful improvement in PTSD symptom severity on posttreatment assessment in CAPS and PDS (particularly in avoidance/numbing symptoms), and reduced PTSD-relevant cognitions in PTCI (self blame).
[Ed Note: However it’s important to note that 15 out of 80 subjects completing the program is not a strong percentage.]

The investigators conclude that these data suggest group MBCT may be an acceptable brief intervention/adjunctive therapy for combat PTSD, with potential for reducing avoidance and PTSD cognitions.
Further studies are needed to examine efficacy in a randomized controlled design and to identify factors influencing acceptability and efficacy.

Citation:  King AP, Erickson TM, Giardino ND, Favorite T, Rauch SA, Robinson E, Kulkarni M, Liberzon I. A pilot study of group mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) for combat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Depress Anxiety. 2013 Jul;30(7):638-45. doi: 10.1002/da.22104. Epub 2013 Apr 17. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award