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Meta-analysis of the Long-Term Treatment Effects of Psychological Interventions in Youth with PTSD Symptoms

Abstract

To date, the long-term effectiveness of psychological treatments in reducing post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in children and adolescents has not been investigated extensively. This meta-analysis quantifies the long-term effects of psychological interventions in children and adolescents with PTSD symptoms and examines the period-dependent follow-up (FU) effects based on 47 studies. The mean FU effect sizes (ESs) for PTSD symptoms ranged from medium (between treatment ESs for controlled studies) to large (within treatment ESs for uncontrolled studies; pooled analysis including all studies). These effects were comparable to the post-treatment ESs, which suggests that the treatment effects remained stable. ESs did not differ depending on the length of the FU period (</>6 months). In randomized controlled trials (RCTs), as well as trials conducted with treatment as usual or active control groups, the long-term treatment effects for the reduction of PTSD symptoms were small. These results demonstrate the long-term effectiveness of psychological interventions in the treatment of PTSD in youth. However, more studies should include a FU assessment. Further research should focus on RCTs with long-term assessments, report comorbid symptoms and investigate the influence of potential moderators. Research is also warranted to determine how to improve the long-term effects of treatments for PTSD in youth.

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Funding

Funding for this work was partly provided (Jana Gutermann, and Laura Schwartzkopff) by Grant 01KR1204C from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

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Correspondence to Jana Gutermann.

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Regina Steil has received research grants from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. She receives honoraria for supervision, workshops and presentations on different treatments, including developmentally adapted cognitive processing therapy (D-CPT). Jana Gutermann and Regina Steil are part of the committee working on the German guidelines for PTSD treatment. Laura Schwartzkopff declares that she has no conflict of interest.

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Gutermann, J., Schwartzkopff, L. & Steil, R. Meta-analysis of the Long-Term Treatment Effects of Psychological Interventions in Youth with PTSD Symptoms. Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev 20, 422–434 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-017-0242-5

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Keywords

  • PTSD
  • Trauma
  • Youth
  • Follow-up
  • Long-term effects
  • Psychotherapy