Write Away the Pain

Post traumatic stress disorder symptoms may be lessened by written exposure therapy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be a harmful mental disorder that affects many individuals. A simple new treatment method may offer an effective and quick way to relieve symptoms.

According to a new study, Written Exposure Therapy (WET) may be an effective, affordable and short treatment program.

The therapy involves victims recounting traumatic events in therapist guided writing sessions.

"Ask your psychiatrist about new treatments."

The study was conducted by Denise M. Sloan, PhD, Associate Director in the Behavioral Science Division of the National Center for PTSD and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine.

“Our findings suggest that WET may be a brief, easily delivered, and well tolerated efficacious treatment for PTSD,” note the study authors.

“Our findings also are consistent with other research showing that the treatment dose needed to obtain clinically meaningful reductions in PTSD may be less than what is frequently assumed.”

The study included 46 adult participants who were involve in a motor vehicle accident. Half of participants were assigned WET treatment while the others were put on a wait list.

The researchers used the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) to assess PTSD symptom severity at the outset of the study, after the treatment was completed, and during a 3 month and 6 month follow up exam.

The WET treatment consisted of five weekly treatment sessions. The first lasted approximately one hour while the other four were about 40 minutes long. Each involved a 30 minute writing session where the patient recounted their accident in great emotional detail.

The study participants were instructed to write about the same event during each of the five sessions.

The researchers found that after the treatment none of the participants who had WET treatment continued to meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD. About 66 percent of participants who were waitlisted continued to meet this criteria.

The benefits of the treatment remained during a follow up assessment 6 months after treatment was completed.

The study was published online July 20, 2012 in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy and was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

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Review Date: 
August 22, 2012
Last Updated:
August 27, 2012