CBT Eases Symptoms of Trauma in Battered Women

By McNamara, Damian | Clinical Psychiatry News, March 2010 | Go to article overview

CBT Eases Symptoms of Trauma in Battered Women


McNamara, Damian, Clinical Psychiatry News


CHICAGO--Brief cognitive-behavioral therapy significantly improved the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder for battered women in a shelter, compared with standard care, preliminary results of a randomized study show.

The Helping to Overcome PTSD through Empowerment (HOPE) study, designed to serve women who have short stays in shelters, focuses on stabilization and empowerment, Keri Pinna said.

Many of the estimated 4-6 million women in the United States who experience domestic violence within an intimate relationship develop depression, suicidality, posttraumatic stress disorder, and alcohol-use disorders. "Unfortunately, many battered women are not getting the interventions they need," Ms. Pinna said at the annual meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

"So many battered women are also mothers," she said.

The 70 women in the study had a mean of 2.5 children each. Ms. Pinna and her associate, Dawn Johnson, Ph.D., also assessed parenting distress, parent-child relationships, and child adjustment, because those factors can be altered by maternal PTSD and depression.

They compared PTSD severity between 35 women randomized to cognitive-behavioral therapy and 35 others in a standard-care control group. "We do have a nice, strong, significant effect of HOPE on women's symptoms of PTSD," Ms. Pinna said.

The women were assessed at baseline and 1 week, 3 months, and 6 months after they left the shelter. Their mean age was 33 years. Half of the women were African American, 43% white, 3% Native American, and 4% were biracial.

The researchers used measures including the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders, Beck Depression Inventory, and Parenting Stress Index-Short Form to assess parental distress, parent-child dysfunctional interaction, and assessment of the difficult child.

Despite the small sample size, the results suggest positive effects of this treatment on parenting factors, Ms. Pinna said.

The researchers found a significant decrease in distress among the CBT group at 1 week, compared with that in the standard care group, said Ms. Pinna, a sixth-year clinical graduate student in psychology at Kent (Ohio) State University. In contrast, changes in distress were not significantly different at 3- and 6-month follow-up.

Dr. Johnson is the HOPE principal investigator and on the psychology faculty at the Summa-Kent State Center for the Treatment and Study of Traumatic Stress. Neither investigator had a relevant conflict of interest.

Clinicians provided 60- or 90-minute sessions at least twice a week when possible. …

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