Effectiveness of an intensive treatment programme combining prolonged exposure and EMDR therapy for adolescents suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder

Ytje van Pelt, Petra Fokkema, Carlijn de Roos, Ad de Jongh

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Abstract

Background: Following promising effects of an intensive trauma treatment for adults, the question arises whether adolescents who suffer from severe post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD) can also profit from a similar treatment programme. 
Objective: To assess the effectiveness of an intensive trauma-focused treatment programme combining two evidence-based trauma-focused therapies and physical activities for adolescents suffering from severe PTSD. 
Method: Treatment consisted of daily sessions of prolonged exposure (PE) therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy supplemented with physical activity (13 days on average). All patients (N = 27; 96.3% women, mean age = 16.1 years; SD = 1.3) had been exposed to one or more (interpersonal) traumatic events. Twenty-two of them (81.5%) also fulfilled the diagnostic criteria of a comorbid psychiatric disorder (mean number of comorbid disorders = 2.22). The majority of patients were referred because previous treatment was difficult or complications were expected to occur. Severity of PTSD symptoms and presence of a PTSD diagnostic status were assessed using the Dutch version of the CAPSCA IV at baseline, post-treatment and at 3-month follow-up. 
Results: CAPS-CA IV scores decreased significantly from pre- to post-treatment (Cohen’sd = 1.39). Of all patients 81.5% (n = 22) showed a clinically meaningful response, of whom63% (n = 17) no longer fulfilled the diagnostic criteria of PTSD at post-treatment as established with the CAPS-CA IV. The results were maintained at 3-month follow-up. During treatment, neither adverse events nor dropout occurred. 
Conclusions: The results suggest that an intensive trauma-focused treatment programme combining prolonged exposure, EMDR therapy, and physical activity can be an effective and safe treatment for adolescents suffering from severe PTSD and multiple comorbid psychiatric disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1917876
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychotraumatology
Volume12
Issue number1
Early online date14 May 2021
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 14 May 2021

Keywords

  • EMDR
  • PTSD
  • adolescents
  • intensive trauma-focused treatment
  • physical activity
  • prolonged exposure

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