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Cognitive therapy effective for children and adolescents with PTSD

Cognitive therapy can be an effective treatment for children and adolescents with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), new study results suggest.

Cognitive therapy can be an effective treatment for children and adolescents with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), new study results suggest.


Participants were randomly allocated to cognitive therapy for PTSD or a waiting
list for 10 weeks. Picture: iStock

Researchers from the University of East Anglia studied 29 children and adolescents aged eight to 17 years old who had been diagnosed with PTSD after a single-event trauma in the previous two to six months. Participants were randomly allocated to cognitive therapy for PTSD or a waiting list for ten weeks.

The researchers found that 71% of the participants who underwent cognitive therapy were free of PTSD, compared to just 27% of those who were on the waiting list. Greater improvements in rates of depression and anxiety were also seen in the cognitive therapy group, with recovery maintained at six and 12 months post-treatment.

‘This trial provides new preliminary support for the efficacy and acceptability of cognitive therapy as an early treatment for PTSD in youth,’ said lead study author Richard Meiser Stedman.

Important window 

‘This early (two to six months post-trauma) treatment window is important, as it is not known whether treatment in this period would have any advantage over natural recovery, which can occur up to six months later,’ he added.

‘Importantly, the results of this trial did not support the extension of ‘watchful waiting’ into the two to six month post-trauma window, as significant improvements in the waiting list group, particularly in terms of functioning and depression, were not observed.’

The researchers said that more research into treatments in this period was needed, ‘starting with a replica study with larger samples.’


Meiser-Stedman R et al (2016) Cognitive therapy as an early treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in children and adolescents: a randomized controlled trial addressing preliminary efficacy and mechanisms of action. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12673

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