Power to the Patient: Preferred Treatments for PTSD Prove More Promising

By Rachel Burd

The University of Washington and Case Western Reserve University have investigated the role of the patient’s preference in the context of treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This study compared two popular treatments for PTSD. One option was a type of cognitive behavioral therapy called prolonged exposure, which allowed PTSD patients to access the memory of their trauma such that they could understand their thoughts and emotions as well as develop coping mechanisms. The second option was the use of sertraline, marketed as Zoloft®, which is a member of a class of antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. In this study, the treatment was markedly more effective when the patient had chosen the form of treatment.

200 adults who had been diagnosed with chronic PTSD participated in this two-year study. When the study commenced, all subjects expressed a choice of one of the two options. 61% of the subjects preferred prolonged exposure therapy. Among those who received their preference, symptoms subsided to a greater extent and the completion rate of the treatment was significantly higher. Of the participants who preferred and received therapy, 74% were PTSD-free within two years. Only 37% of those who preferred therapy and received medication had been relieved of their PTSD symptoms and diagnoses within the same time frame.

Both prolonged exposure therapy and sertraline are thoroughly documented as effective treatments, but are appreciably different options. Psychotherapy and medication are rarely compared in clinical trials. The results of this particular study have major implications for clinical medicine. These findings reveal the importance of the patient’s voice in the patient-clinician conversation about his or her medical treatments and overall health. An individual’s unique personality and experiences, as well as the inherently nebulous and complicated nature of mental health, require clinicians to design personalized treatment plans for their patients.

University of Washington. (2018, October 19). PTSD symptoms improve when patient chooses form of treatment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 3, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181019131515.htm