Rationale, design, and methods of a two-site randomized controlled trial: Comparative effectiveness of two treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder in veterans

Contemp Clin Trials. 2021 Jun:105:106408. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2021.106408. Epub 2021 Apr 17.


PTSD is associated with serious problems in interpersonal functioning, including higher rates of marital conflict and divorce, disrupted relationships with family and friends, estrangement from others and social isolation. Cognitive behavioral and trauma focused treatments are effective for treating PTSD symptoms, but a substantial proportion of individuals, particularly veterans, with PTSD, do not engage, complete, or fully respond to these treatments, and the effects of these treatments on interpersonal functioning are unknown. There is a critical need for alternative treatments with established efficacy, and for treatments that directly address problems in relationship functioning. Interpersonal Psychotherapy for PTSD (IPT-PTSD) is a promising candidate for such a treatment. This paper describes the rationale, design, and methods of the first randomized controlled equivalence trial comparing IPT-PTSD with a first-line gold standard treatment for PTSD (Prolonged Exposure; PE) in the treatment of PTSD in veterans. Both treatments include up to 12 weekly individual sessions. Assessments were conducted at baseline, following sessions four and eight, end of treatment, and 3 and 6 months post-treatment. Primary hypotheses are that IPT-PTSD will be statistically equivalent to PE in reducing the severity of PTSD symptoms, and superior to PE in improving interpersonal functioning. Secondary hypotheses propose that IPT will be superior to PE in improving overall social adjustment and quality of life, and in reducing suicidal ideation. Findings from this study have the potential to improve treatment options for veterans struggling with PTSD and interpersonal problems.

Keywords: Interpersonal psychotherapy; Posttraumatic stress disorder; Prolonged exposure; Randomized controlled trial; Treatment; Veterans.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Quality of Life
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Veterans*