Your Spouse Can Help With PTSD

Cognitive behavioral conjoint therapy may help couples cope with PTSD symptoms

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can have lasting and ill effects on otherwise healthy relationships. Traditional therapy is given only to those with symptoms. But what if PTSD therapy is given to couples?

A new study suggests that Cognitive-Behavioral Conjoint Therapy (CBCT) for PTSD could reduce symptoms of PTSD as well as increase relationship satisfaction.

The therapy session is specifically designed for couples in which one partner is suffering from PTSD.

"Ask your therapist how to strengthen your relationship."

The study was led by Candice M. Monson, PhD, Director of Clinical Training at Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

“This randomized controlled trial provides evidence for the efficacy of a couple therapy for the treatment of PTSD and comorbid symptoms, as well as enhancements in intimate relationship satisfaction,” said the study authors.

“These improvements occurred in a sample of couples in which the patients varied with regard to sex, type of trauma experienced, and sexual orientation.”

There were 40 couples who participated in the study. One partner in each couple met the criteria for PTSD on the Clinician-Administered PTSD scale.

PTSD symptoms, other mental and physical conditions, and relationship satisfaction were assessed at the beginning of the study, half way through therapy, upon completion of therapy, and during a three month follow up visit.

Half of couples were enrolled in the CBCT for PTSD therapy, which consisted of 15 weekly therapy sessions. The other half of participating couples were placed on a wait-list, and did not receive therapy.

The researchers found that PTSD symptom severity and overall relationship satisfaction improved significantly more in couples who participated in CBCT than those who were wait-listed.

Additionally, depression, anxiety and anger expression improved as well.

The positive effects of therapy remained during the three month follow up.

The study was published in the August 15, 2012 edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association and was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. The study author is receiving royalties from Guilford Press and New Harbinger Press and is the director of Treatment Innovations, which provides consultation, training, and materials related to psychotherapy.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 17, 2012
Last Updated:
August 19, 2012