Objective: To test the efficacy of a group-administered cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy (CBT) protocol for pediatric posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a single-incident stressor.
Method: After a school-wide selection-to-treatment procedure conducted in two elementary and two junior high schools, children and adolescents with DSM-IV PTSD by structured interview were entered into an 18-week, group-administered CBT protocol using a single case across time and setting experimental design. Assessments of PTSD, anxiety, depression, trait anger, locus of control, and disruptive behavior were conducted at baseline, posttreatment, and at 6-month follow-up.
Results: Experimental control across time (staggered start date) and setting (school and age) was demonstrated. Fourteen of 17 subjects completed treatment. Of these, 8 (57%) no longer met DSM-IV criteria for PTSD immediately after treatment; 12 (86%) of 14 were free of PTSD at 6-month follow-up. On intent-to-treat analyses, treatment produced a robust beneficial effect posttreatment on the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale-Child and Adolescent Version, with additional improvement accruing at follow-up (p < .001). Improvements of a similar magnitude were seen for depression (p < .001), anxiety (p < .001), and anger (p < .005). Locus of control remained external from pre- to posttreatment but became strongly internal at follow-up (p < .001).
Conclusion: More clinical trials are required to confirm that CBT is a safe, acceptable, and effective treatment for PTSD in children and adolescents.