A randomized trial of brief couple therapy for PTSD and relationship satisfaction

J Consult Clin Psychol. 2022 May;90(5):392-404. doi: 10.1037/ccp0000731.


Objective: This three-arm randomized trial tested a brief version of cognitive-behavioral conjoint therapy (bCBCT) delivered in two modalities compared to couples' psychoeducation in a sample of U.S. veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and their intimate partners.

Method: Couples were randomized to receive (a) in-person, office-based bCBCT (OB-bCBCT), (b) bCBCT delivered via home-based telehealth (HB-bCBCT), or (c) an in-person psychoeducation comparison condition (PTSD family education [OB-PFE]). Primary outcomes were clinician-assessed PTSD severity (Clinician Administered PTSD Scale), self-reported psychosocial functioning (Brief Inventory of Psychosocial Functioning), and relationship satisfaction (Couples Satisfaction Index) at posttreatment and through 6-month follow-up.

Results: PTSD symptoms significantly decreased by posttreatment with all three treatments, but compared to PFE, PTSD symptoms declined significantly more for veterans in OB-bCBCT (between-group d = 0.59 [0.17, 1.01]) and HB-bCBCT (between-group d = 0.76 [0.33, 1.19]) treatments. There were no significant differences between OB-bCBCT and HB-bCBCT. Psychosocial functioning and relationship satisfaction showed significant small to moderate improvements, with no differences between treatments. All changes were maintained through 6-month follow-up.

Conclusions: A briefer, more scalable version of CBCT showed sustained effectiveness relative to an active control for improving PTSD symptoms when delivered in-person or via telehealth. Both bCBCT and couples' psychoeducation improved psychosocial and relational outcomes. These results could have a major impact on PTSD treatment delivery within large systems of care where access to brief, evidence-based PTSD treatments incorporating family members are needed. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02720016.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Couples Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Veterans* / psychology

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02720016