Does CBT have lasting effects in the treatment of PTSD after one year of follow-up? A systematic review of randomized controlled trials

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posted on 19.12.2018 by Tânia Macedo, Marllon Barbosa, Helga Rodrigues, Evandro da Silva Freire Coutinho, Ivan Figueira, Paula Ventura

Abstract Introduction: While several previous meta-analyses have documented the short-term efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), its long-term efficacy remains unknown. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious, debilitating, often chronic and disabling disease. Objective: To estimate the long-term efficacy of CBT in the treatment of PTSD by assessing the maintenance of the effect after one year of follow-up. Method: We performed a systematic review through electronic database searches including ISI Web of Science, PubMed, PsycInfo and Pilots. We included randomized studies in which CBT was compared with a control group (waiting list or usual care) in adults with PTSD that reported at least one year of CBT follow-up. Results: Our search identified 2,324 studies and 8 were selected. CBT was shown to be effective in the treatment of PTSD in the post-treatment period. Improvement in PTSD symptoms was statistically significant in relation to the control group. The improvement observed in the treatment group or single group (formed by both treatment group and control group, which was submitted to the intervention after a few weeks on the waiting list) was maintained in the follow-up. Conclusion: Due to the lack of control groups in the follow-up period in six of the eight studies included in this review, there is still no proper methodological basis to assert that CBT has lasting effects in the treatment of PTSD. Our study found serious methodological shortcomings and the need to fill this gap in the literature through the development of studies with robust and sophisticated designs.