Can asylum-seekers with posttraumatic stress disorder be successfully treated? A randomized controlled pilot study

Frank Neuner, Silke Kurreck, Martina Ruf, Michael Odenwald, Thomas Elbert, Maggie Schauer
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy 2010, 39 (2): 81-91
Rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are exceptionally high among asylum-seekers. Reportedly, stressors caused by the asylum procedure and psychological consequences of torture contribute to the maintenance of symptoms and interfere with treatment. In a pilot randomized controlled trial, the authors examined the efficacy of trauma-focused treatment in 32 asylum-seekers with PTSD resulting from state-sponsored violence and other traumatic events. Narrative exposure therapy (NET) was compared with treatment as usual (TAU), with a focus on stabilization and psychoactive medication. Six months after treatment, a significant reduction of posttraumatic stress symptoms was found in the NET participants but not in the TAU group. Although treatment gains were moderate, these results indicate that NET is a promising approach for the treatment of PTSD in asylum-seekers living in unstable conditions.

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