Manualized therapy for PTSD: flexing the structure of cognitive processing therapy

J Consult Clin Psychol. 2012 Dec;80(6):968-81. doi: 10.1037/a0030600. Epub 2012 Oct 29.


Objective: This study tested a modified cognitive processing therapy (MCPT) intervention designed as a more flexible administration of the protocol. Number of sessions was determined by client progress toward a priori defined end-state criteria, "stressor sessions" were inserted when necessary, and therapy was conducted by novice CPT clinicians.

Method: A randomized, controlled, repeated measures, semicrossover design was utilized (a) to test the relative efficacy of the MCPT intervention compared with a symptom-monitoring delayed treatment (SMDT) condition and (b) to assess within-group variation in change with a sample of 100 male and female interpersonal trauma survivors with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Results: Hierarchical linear modeling analyses revealed that MCPT evidenced greater improvement on all primary (PTSD and depression) and secondary (guilt, quality of life, general mental health, social functioning, and health perceptions) outcomes compared with SMDT. After the conclusion of SMDT, participants crossed over to MCPT, resulting in a combined MCPT sample (n = 69). Of the 50 participants who completed MCPT, 58% reached end-state criteria prior to the 12th session, 8% at Session 12, and 34% between Sessions 12 and 18. Maintenance of treatment gains was found at the 3-month follow-up, with only 2 of the treated sample meeting criteria for PTSD. Use of stressor sessions did not result in poorer treatment outcomes.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that individuals respond at a variable rate to CPT, with significant benefit from additional therapy when indicated and excellent maintenance of gains. Insertion of stressor sessions did not alter the efficacy of the therapy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adult Survivors of Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Guilt
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Social Behavior
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome