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A Review of Trauma Specific Treatments (TSTs) for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Abstract

Trauma is a significant public health concern that has widespread and adverse effects on people. There is a high prevalence of trauma and PTSD in general populations, and that prevalence greatly increases among the clinical populations that social workers serve. To address the hidden epidemic of trauma, there are various trauma-specific treatments for PTSD. Scholars have highlighted a critical use of research evidence as a starting consideration in clinical decision-making and named the necessity to map out effective interventions according to population and types of trauma, including both conventional and non-conventional treatments. A rapid systematic review was conducted to fill this gap and found thirty-four empirically supported studies, including nineteen conventional and seven non-conventional treatment approaches for PTSD. The included conventional therapies are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), sleep-specific CBT, trauma-focused CBT, internet CBT, virtual reality exposure therapy, prolonged exposure, narrative exposure therapy, cognitive processing therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), hypnotherapy, emotion focused therapy, skills training in affect and interpersonal regulations (STAIR), interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), seeking safety, trauma incident reduction, accelerated resolution therapy (ART), metacognitive therapy, and imaginary rehearsal therapy. The non-conventional approaches included are yoga, physical activities, emotion freedom technique, acupuncture, mantram repetition program, mind–body therapy, and music therapy. We further explored the therapy content, population, type of trauma, outcomes, and strengths/limitations under each treatment to guide clinicians to select the best practice for idiosyncratic clients. Lastly, we discussed limitations of the current review, clinical considerations in selecting empirically supported treatment for PTSD and future research implications to guide clinical social workers.

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Funding

This project is funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Institutional Grant (2019–2020).

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Correspondence to Eunjung Lee.

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Lee, E., Faber, J. & Bowles, K. A Review of Trauma Specific Treatments (TSTs) for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Clin Soc Work J 50, 147–159 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10615-021-00816-w

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Keywords

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Trauma-specific treatments (TSTs)
  • Psychological treatment for trauma
  • Conventional versus non-conventional psychotherapies
  • Clinical social work practice