Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Among Military Personnel and Veterans
Servicemen and women especially those on active duty are at an increased risk of encountering exceptionally traumatizing, catastrophic, and threatening events that ultimately affect their psychological and physical well-being. Exposure to these events can lead to cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As a result, the army officers have to contend with lifelong devastating mental conditions characterized by suicidal tendencies, reclusion, and generally poor quality of life, especially among army veterans. The efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy in treating PTSD is well-established in the literature. As a standard psychotherapy treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) increasingly embraced evidence-based practices that further increase patient outcomes. However, there is a need for improved incorporation of patient transdiagnostic characteristics in CBT practice to achieve improved levels of patient responsiveness to treatment.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most effective psychotherapy treatments for a wide variety of psychiatric problems. In particular, a meta-analytic study by Kar (2011) established that CBT is effective in treating different types of trauma in adults including terrorism, war trauma, road traffic accidents, sexual assault, and disasters. There was also empirical evidence pointing to the efficacy of group CBT in treating trauma associated with refugee status, exposure to extreme humanitarian suffering, and shocking scenes (Kar, 2011). Clinical trials also showed that individuals suffering from PTSD-related psychosocial issues such as insomnia showed significant improvements after several CBT sessions.
For many army officers on active duty, such traumatizing experiences are commonplace, especially on the battlefield. Army officers encounter such scenes whether in the battlefield or humanitarian duty within or outside the country especially in the aftermath of natural disasters or terrorist attacks. Studies have shown that military personnel suffering from PTSD and other psychiatric problems such as insomnia registered a significant improvement in quality of life and alleviation of symptoms after undergoing CBT treatment (Kelly, Robbins & Martin, 2019). However, such efficacies were achieved without effectively customizing the treatment method to suit the patient’s transdiagnostic characteristics such as sexual orientation, religion, cultural beliefs, age, and therapy preferences among others.
Responsiveness to clinical treatment by patients significantly improves treatment outcomes. An APA task force report authored by Norcross and Wampold (2018) established that greater efficacies were achieved with CBT in cases where the clinical treatments were aligned with the transdiagnostic characteristics of the patient. The conclusion was based on a meta-analysis of several studies on effective psychotherapies. The report concluded that factoring in these characteristics of patients was the hallmark of evidence-based practice in psychotherapy and other clinical treatments. Such a patient-centric approach ensures that only what works for the patient is used in clinical treatments (Norcross & Wampold, 2018). For many veterans and military personnel suffering from PTSD and other traumas, this approach will factor in their unique transdiagnostic characteristics such as profession and military experience.
The consideration of transdiagnostic characteristics of patients in designing clinical treatment marks a significant move away from the traditional approach to psychotherapy. Instead of adapting the patient’s diagnosis to the treatment method, it calls for the treatment approach to adapt to key transdiagnostic characteristics of the patient (Norcross & Wampold, 2018). However, it is a novel idea with huge potential. There is a need for future research on its effectiveness in tackling other psychiatric problems.
In conclusion, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in the treatment of a wide range of psychosocial conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which common among active-duty army personnel and veterans. However, the efficacy of CBT can be improved by adapting it to key transdiagnostic characteristics of the patients.
Kar, N. (2011). Cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder: A review. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat., 7, pp. 167–181.
Kelly, M. R., Robbins, R. & Martin, J. L. (2019). Delivering cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia in military personnel and veterans. Sleep Med Clin., 14(2), pp. 199 – 208.
Norcross, J. C. & Wampold, B. E. (2018). A new therapy for each patient: Evidence‐based relationships and responsiveness. J. Clin. Psychol 1 – 18. doi: 10.1002/jclp.22678