A randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of brief-CBT for patients with symptoms of posttraumatic stress following a motor vehicle crash

Kitty K Wu, Frendi W Li, Valda W Cho
Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy 2014, 42 (1): 31-47

BACKGROUND: Motor vehicle crashes (MVCs) are leading contributors to the global burden of disease. Patients attending accident and emergency (A&E) after an MVC may develop symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There is evidence that brief cognitive behavioural therapy (B-CBT) can be effective in treating PTSD; however, there are few studies of the use of B-CBT to treat PTSD in MVC survivors.

AIMS: This study examined the effects of B-CBT and a self-help program on the severity of psychological symptoms in MVC survivors at risk of developing PTSD.

METHOD: Sixty participants who attended A&E after a MVC were screened for PTSD symptoms and randomized to a 4-weekly session B-CBT or a 4-week self-help program (SHP) booklet treatment conditions. Psychological assessments were completed at baseline (1-month post-MVC) and posttreatment (3- and 6-month follow-ups) by utilizing Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R) and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS).

RESULTS: There were significant improvements in the measures of anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms over time. Participants treated with B-CBT showed greater reductions in anxiety at 3-month and 6-month follow-ups, and in depression at 6-month follow-up. A comparison of effect size favoured B-CBT for the reduction of anxiety and depression symptoms measured by HADS. A high level of pretreatment anxiety and depression were predictive of negative outcome at 6-month follow-up in the SHP condition. There was no differential effect on PTSD symptoms measured by IES-R.

CONCLUSIONS: This trial supports the efficacy of providing B-CBT as a preventive strategy to improve psychological symptoms after an MVC.

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