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Feasibility and Acceptability of Group-Facilitated Prolonged Exposure Therapy for PTSD in VA Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Programs.

Sripada RK, Rodriguez JL, Wright TP, Hyland JA, Walters HM, Ganoczy D, Haft SM, Smith ER, Porter KE, Driesenga SA, DeJong TM, Rauch SAM. Feasibility and Acceptability of Group-Facilitated Prolonged Exposure Therapy for PTSD in VA Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Programs. Behavior Therapy. 2022 Jul 1; 53(4):714-724.

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Prolonged Exposure therapy (PE) is a first-line treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); however, few VA patients receive this treatment. One of the barriers to PE receipt is that it is only available in an individual (one-on-one) format, whereas many VA mental health clinics provide the majority of their psychotherapy services in group format. In particular, PTSD residential rehabilitation treatment programs (RRTPs) offer most programming in group format. Consequently, strategies are needed to improve the scalability of PE by adapting it to fit the delivery setting. The current study was designed to pilot test a group-facilitated format of PE in RRTPs. Thirty-nine Veterans who were engaged in care in the PTSD RRTP at a Midwestern VA were recruited to participate in a Group-facilitated PE protocol. Participants engaged in twelve 90-minute sessions of Group PE over the course of 6 weeks, plus six 60-minute individual sessions for imaginal exposure. Group treatment followed the PE model and consisted of psychoeducation, treatment rationale, and in vivo exposure to reduce trauma-related avoidance and thereby improve PTSD symptoms. PTSD symptoms were measured via the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) and depression symptoms were measured via the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) at baseline, endpoint (6 weeks), and at 2-month follow-up. Thirty-nine individuals initiated Group-facilitated PE and 34 completed treatment. The average number of group sessions attended was 11 out of 12. Acceptability ratings were high. Mean change (improvement) in the intent-to-treat sample at 2-month follow-up was 20.0 points on the PCL-5 (CI 18.1, 21.9; Cohen's d = 1.1) and 4.8 points on the PHQ-9 (CI 4.1, 5.5, d = .8). These results suggest that adapted evidence-based interventions for PTSD can improve treatment access and efficiency for the RRTP setting. A group-based approach has the potential to improve the scalability of PTSD treatment by reducing required resources. A fully powered trial is now needed to test the effectiveness of Group-facilitated PE in the RRTP setting.

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