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Study: Combat Veterans Can Overcome Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Three Weeks with Intensive Treatment

A short but intense treatment can help combat veterans overcome PTSD in as little as three weeks. new study from UT Health San Antonio.

Dr. Alan Peterson, Clinical Psychologist at UT Health San Antonio and Head STRONG STAR Consortiumled a clinical trial that was hailed as a breakthrough.

“Not only do participants say, ‘I feel better,’ 75% also experience a clinically significant reduction in symptoms. About half or so no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder after three weeks,” Peterson told TPR The Source.

“We also looked at the level of disability, and the measures we had in place for that really showed that there was a very large increase in functioning. So not only did people feel better and have fewer symptoms, but they were able to function better in their lives.”

In a clinical trial, 234 active duty military and veterans from San Antonio and Fort Hood tried a condensed form of long-term exposure therapy, a standard treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in which patients learn to face traumatic memories they would normally avoid.

In long exposure therapy, patients retell their trauma stories and do homework where they engage in activities that trigger their traumatic memories or disturbing feelings. The goal is to help them process thoughts about their trauma, calm the anxiety that the memories cause, and regain control of their lives.

Usually this type of therapy is done once a week for several months. But participants in the UT Health study in San Antonio spent five days a week on individual outpatient therapy for three weeks, taking time off from work and other duties.

Peterson explained that the study’s short time window may have helped more patients stick to treatment.

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