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Improving outcomes for a 3-week intensive treatment program for posttraumatic stress disorder in survivors of military sexual trauma.



The experience of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) in the form of sexual assault and sexual harassment is common during service in the U.S. Armed Forces and often leads to adverse health outcomes including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Improving treatment of MST-related PTSD across settings is important to optimize treatment for survivors. The delivery of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) in an intensive treatment program (ITP) shows promise for rapid reduction of PTSD symptoms for veterans and service members (veterans). However, a recent outcome study suggested that this modality is significantly less effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD for survivors of MST compared to veterans recovering from combat trauma.


-The current study examines the utility of modifications made to a CPT-based ITP designed to treat PTSD secondary to MST in a mixedgender sample (N = 285). Treatment modifications included the introduction of skills-based groups in emotion regulation and interpersonal domains. Individual skills-consultation sessions were also offered to participants on an as-needed basis. Further, training was provided to both clinical and non-clinical staff to increase understanding of the unique experiences and needs of MST survivors.


Program changes proved beneficial, resulting in PTSD treatment outcomes that were comparable for survivors of MST and combat traumas.


Further research is needed to determine which of these specific program changes were most impactful in improving symptom outcomes.


Our findings suggest that short-term, intensive PTSD treatment for MST survivors may be improved by integrating present-focused, skills-based therapies and staff sensitivity training.

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