A multidimensional meta-analysis of psychotherapy for PTSD

Am J Psychiatry. 2005 Feb;162(2):214-27. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.162.2.214.


Objective: The authors present a multidimensional meta-analysis of studies published between 1980 and 2003 on psychotherapy for PTSD.

Method: Data on variables not previously meta-analyzed such as inclusion and exclusion criteria and rates, recovery and improvement rates, and follow-up data were examined.

Results: Results suggest that psychotherapy for PTSD leads to a large initial improvement from baseline. More than half of patients who complete treatment with various forms of cognitive behavior therapy or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing improve. Reporting of metrics other than effect size provides a somewhat more nuanced account of outcome and generalizability.

Conclusions: The majority of patients treated with psychotherapy for PTSD in randomized trials recover or improve, rendering these approaches some of the most effective psychosocial treatments devised to date. Several caveats, however, are important in applying these findings to patients treated in the community. Exclusion criteria and failure to address polysymptomatic presentations render generalizability to the population of PTSD patients indeterminate. The majority of patients posttreatment continue to have substantial residual symptoms, and follow-up data beyond very brief intervals have been largely absent. Future research intended to generalize to patients in practice should avoid exclusion criteria other than those a sensible clinician would impose in practice (e.g., schizophrenia), should avoid wait-list and other relatively inert control conditions, and should follow patients through at least 2 years.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy
  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Patient Selection
  • Personality Inventory
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Psychotherapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychotherapy, Brief
  • Relaxation Therapy
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome