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Modest Improvement Found for Traumatized Vets Using MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) Therapy

03 Sep

Researchers from the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System conducted a randomized clinical trial comparing mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) with present-centered group therapy for the treatment of posttraumatic stress (PTSD).

One hundred sixteen veterans with PTSD were recruited at the Minneapolis V.A. from March 2012 to December 2013. Outcomes were assessed before, during, and after treatment and at 2-month follow-up. Data collection was completed on April 22, 2014.

Participants were randomly assigned to receive mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy (n = 58), consisting of 9 sessions (8 weekly 2.5-hour group sessions and a day-long retreat) focused on teaching patients to attend to the present moment in a nonjudgmental, accepting manner; or present-centered group therapy (n = 58), an active-control condition consisting of 9 weekly 1.5-hour group sessions focused on current life problems.

The primary outcome, change in PTSD symptom severity over time, was assessed using the PTSD Checklist at baseline and weeks 3, 6, 9, and 17.

Secondary outcomes included PTSD diagnosis and symptom severity assessed by independent evaluators using the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) along with improvements in depressive symptoms, quality of life, and mindfulness.

Investigators found that participants in the mindfulness-based stress reduction group demonstrated greater improvement in self-reported PTSD symptom severity during treatment and at 2-month follow-up (p = .002; and at 2-month follow-up (p < .001).

Although participants in the mindfulness-based stress reduction group were more likely to show clinically significant improvement in self-reported PTSD symptom severity (p = .03) at 2-month follow-up, they were no more likely to have loss of PTSD diagnosis (p = .55).

The researchers conclude that among veterans with PTSD, mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy, compared with present-centered group therapy, resulted in a greater decrease in PTSD symptom severity. However, the magnitude of the average improvement suggests a modest effect.

Citation: Polusny MA1, Erbes CR1, Thuras P2, Moran A3, Lamberty GJ2, Collins RC3, Rodman JL3, Lim KO2. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Veterans: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA 2015 Aug 4;314(5):456-65. doi: 10.1001/jama.2015.8361.

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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.