Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Art Therapy and CPT Benefit PTSD, Early Results Suggest

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Art Therapy and CPT Benefit PTSD, Early Results Suggest

Article excerpt


NEW YORK -- When art therapy is adjunctively combined with cognitive-processing therapy in combat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder, there is a trend for improvement in the Beck Depression Inventory-II score and greater reported patient satisfaction with the therapy, according to interim results from the first known randomized trial to evaluate the addition of art therapy in this setting.

"There are several case studies suggesting a benefit from art therapy in veterans with PTSD, but we believe this is the first controlled study," reported Dr. Kathleen P. Decker, a psychiatrist with the Hampton (Va.) VA Medical Center, and the Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk. These preliminary data were presented at the American Psychiatric Association's Institute on Psychiatric Services.

In this ongoing study, 20 veterans with combat PTSD who were under going cognitive-processing therapy (CPT) in a residential treatment center have so far been randomized to receive art therapy or no art therapy. The hypothesis is that art therapy would improve cognitive processing and thereby further reduce symptoms.

In addition to "engaging the senses," art therapy "has been hypothesized to assist with externalization and emotional distance," Dr. Decker explained. "It has also been hypothesized to assist patients [in processing] traumatic memories by creating links between verbal and nonverbal memories, and may organize disassociated memories."

The data have been encouraging but not definitive, he said. On the basis of the PTSD Checklist Military, symptoms declined significantly from baseline in both groups (P less than.001), but no significant advantage of art therapy was found over CPT alone (P = .5). However, in addition to the more rapid decline in symptoms of depression on the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) in those who received adjunctive art therapy, which approached significance (P = .07), high rates of patient satisfaction were recorded in the art therapy group relative to baseline on a semistructured interview with a Likert scale. …

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