Defining the Impact of Group Therapy on Treating PTSD in Active Military Personnel

Posted January 28, 2016
Patricia A. Resick, Ph.D., Duke University Medical Center

Patricia A. Resick, Ph.D. Between 5% and 45% of military personnel returning from deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan experience prevalent combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). By evaluating the impact of group therapy on treating military personnel affected by PTSD, a new option may become available in military settings where therapists are limited.

In past PTSD studies, little evidence has been found supporting group therapy as a beneficial treatment for active military members experiencing PTSD symptoms. As part of the STRONG STAR Consortium, which represents 20 major research institutions and 100 military and civilian researchers and clinicians with the goal of studying and treating combat-related PTSD, Dr. Patricia A. Resick thoroughly investigated this topic with funding from a Fiscal Year 2007 PTSD Multidisciplinary Research Consortium Award. In this study, two methods of group therapy were compared using a total of 108 active duty U.S. Army Soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas. The first method, termed cognitive processing therapy (CPT-C), is evidence-based and trauma-focused. This randomized clinical trial compared CPT-C with group present-centered therapy (PCT), which is also evidence-based. In this scenario, the researchers hypothesized that CPT-C would be more effective in a group setting than PCT. To measure PTSD severity in these patients, the PTSD Checklist was used, which is the gold standard measure of PTSD in which higher scores reflect greater PTSD severity. The Beck Depression Inventory II was utilized to measure the severity of depression, and the PTSD Symptom-Scale Interview was used for diagnostic purposes at pre-treatment and at post-treatment follow-ups. The outcome of this clinical trial showed that both group therapy treatments resulted in large decreases in PTSD severity. As expected, CPT-C was found to have a greater impact on PTSD symptoms as well as depression. This in-depth clinical trial utilized multiple valuable resources such as trained and supervised therapists, rigorous face-to-face treatment sessions, and statistical analysis to provide strong evidence that PTSD symptom severity can be decreased using group therapy formats. A comparison of individual versus group CPT-C is currently underway by Dr. Resick.

Dr. Resick's research provides evidence that group therapy results in significant improvement in PTSD symptoms in active military members. This may be an important treatment regimen for Service members in settings where access to therapists is limited. Additional information about Dr. Resick's research can be found in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (2015; 83(6):1058-1068).


Resick PA, Wachen JS, Mintz J, et al. 2015. A randomized clinical trial of group cognitive processing therapy compared with group present-centered therapy for PTSD among active duty military personnel. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 83(6):1058-1068. Advanced online publication at


Public and Technical Abstracts: The STRONG STAR Multidisciplinary PTSD Research Consortium

A randomized clinical trial of group Cognitive Processing Therapy compared with group Present-Centered Therapy for PTSD among active duty military personnel.

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