Rapid treatment for combat-related PTS offers accelerated recovery

A new type of therapy is effective in treating symptoms of PTS in active-duty service members 

Matt Saintsing
January 24, 2018 - 4:39 pm

Photo by Staff Sgt. David Beckstrom


Post-traumatic stress can be socially debilitating, and common treatments can take months. This often leaves those impacted unable to hold down a job, have meaningful relationships, or be effective parents.

However, there’s hope.

In a first of its kind study from the University of Pennsylvania, Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy was found to be as effective over a two week period as it is when provided over eight weeks for treating PTS in active-duty military service members.   

The study was conducted at Fort Hood in collaboration with Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center and was co-led by Alan Peterson, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at UT Health San Antonio and director of the STRONG STAR Consortium.

It is the largest and first-ever randomized clinical study of PE for PTSD with active-duty military members.

“This seminal study validates that combat-related PTSD can be effectively treated in active duty military personnel, and it sets a high benchmark to which future studies will be compared. However, we need to do more,” said Peterson, a retired lieutenant colonel and clinical psychologist with the U.S. Air Force.

“Even with our most effective PTSD treatments, we’re seeing greater challenges to successful recovery from combat-related PTSD.”

Around 10 to 20 percent of those who deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan since 9/11 suffer from incapacitating PTS.

This study not only addresses the pressing need for an effective treatment option for PTSD but also encourages a more speedy treatment and recovery, allowing affected service members to return to active duty sooner and enabling veterans to reintegrate into civilian life more quickly,” said Edna Foa, a professor of Clinical Psychology in Psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

“This is critical for the hundreds of thousands of post-9/11 combat veterans affected by PTSD and can do so much to improve lives and assist with military readiness.”

The researchers plan to expand their work within the DoD by conduction follow-on studies to better understand which methods are best for delivering therapy to service members and veterans.