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Chen JA, Fortney JC, Bergman HE, Browne KC, Grubbs KM, Hudson TJ, Raue PJ. Therapeutic alliance across trauma-focused and non-trauma-focused psychotherapies among veterans with PTSD. Psychological Services. 2020 Nov 1; 17(4):452-460.
Trauma-focused psychotherapies for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are not widely utilized. Clinicians report concerns that direct discussion of traumatic experiences could undermine the therapeutic alliance, which may negatively impact retention and outcome. Studies among adolescents with PTSD found no difference in alliance between trauma-focused and non-trauma-focused psychotherapies, but this has not been tested among adults. The present study is a secondary analysis of a randomized trial of collaborative care, also known as care management, for PTSD. We examined patient-reported therapeutic alliance among 117 veterans with PTSD who participated in cognitive processing therapy (CPT, now called CPT + A; n = 54) or non-trauma-focused supportive psychotherapy for PTSD (n = 73) at VA community outpatient clinics. We tested the hypothesis that alliance in CPT would be noninferior to (i.e., not significantly worse than) non-trauma-focused psychotherapy using patient ratings on the Revised Helping Alliance Questionnaire. Patients'' therapeutic alliance scores were high across both groups (CPT: M = 5.13, SD = 0.71, 95% CI [4.96, 5.30]; non-trauma-focused psychotherapy: M = 4.89, SD = 0.64, 95% CI [4.73, 5.05]). The difference between groups (0.23, 95% CI [0.01, 0.48]) was less than the "noninferiority margin" based on suggested clinical cutoffs (0.58 points on a 1-6 scale). These results held even after adjusting for veterans'' demographic and clinical characteristics and change in PTSD symptoms from baseline to follow-up. Although there are concerns that direct discussion of traumatic experiences could worsen therapeutic alliance, patients report similar levels of alliance in CPT and non-trauma-focused supportive psychotherapy. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).