A meta-analytic review of exposure in group cognitive behavioral therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder

Clin Psychol Rev. 2013 Feb;33(1):24-32. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2012.09.005. Epub 2012 Oct 6.


Although the efficacy of exposure is well established in individual cognitive behavioral treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), some clinicians and researchers have expressed concerns regarding the use of in-session disclosure of trauma details through imaginal exposure in group cognitive behavioral therapy (GCBT) for PTSD. Thus, the aim of the present study was to conduct a systematic review of the empirical support for GCBT in the treatment of PTSD and to compare GCBT protocols that encourage the disclosure of trauma details via in-session exposure to GCBT protocols that do not include in-session exposure. Randomized controlled trials that assessed the efficacy of GCBT for PTSD were included in the meta-analysis. A total of 651 participants with PTSD were included in the 12 eligible GCBT treatment conditions (5 conditions included in-group exposure, 7 conditions did not include in-group exposure). The overall pre-post effect size of GCBT for PTSD (ES=1.13 [SE=0.22, 95% CI: 0.69 to 1.56, p<.001]). suggests that GCBT is an effective intervention for individuals with PTSD. No significant differences in effect sizes were found between GCBT treatments that included in-group exposure and those that did not. Although the attrition rate was higher in treatments that included exposure in-group, this rate is comparable to attrition rates in individual CBT treatments and pharmacotherapy for PTSD. The results from this meta-analysis suggest that concerns about the potentially negative impact of group exposure may be unwarranted, and support the use of exposure-based GCBT as a promising treatment option for PTSD.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Implosive Therapy / methods*
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome