Although cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is the treatment of choice for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), there is no evidence of its success with PTSD patients still under direct threat of terrorist attacks. This study reports the first randomized controlled trial of CBT for PTSD terrorist-affected people. Twenty-eight survivors of terrorist attacks in southern Thailand were randomized to 8 sessions of either CBT or treatment as usual (TAU). CBT was modified to accommodate the realistic threats facing patients. There were independent assessments conducted before, immediately after, and 3 months following treatment. Main outcome measures included symptoms of PTSD (PTSD Symptom Scale Interview), depression (Beck Depression Inventory) and complicated grief (Inventory of Complicated Grief). CBT resulted in significantly greater reduction in symptoms, including PTSD, depression, and complicated grief, at follow-up than TAU. Relative to TAU, CBT had stronger effect sizes at follow-up for PTSD, depression, and complicated grief. More patients in the CBT condition (75%) achieved high end-state functioning than participants in the TAU (33%). This preliminary evidence suggests that PTSD, depression, and complicated grief can be effectively treated despite ongoing threats of terrorism. Further, it demonstrates that non-specialist mental health workers in a non-western setting can be efficiently trained in using CBT, and this training can translate into successful treatment gains in trauma-affected individuals.
Keywords: Cognitive behaviour therapy; complicated grief; culture; post-traumatic stress disorder; terrorism.