Evaluation of the Effectiveness and Acceptability of a Phase-Based Treatment for Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Jennifer Readings

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused by repeated or prolonged traumas, such as childhood abuse or intimate partner violence, may have symptoms that go beyond the normal clusters of symptoms seen in PTSD from single-incident traumas. These can include emotional, interpersonal, dissociative and somatic symptoms, and altered beliefs about the self, others and the world. This has been termed Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). Recent expert guidelines recommend that treatment for CPTSD should consist of several phases, not only individual trauma-focused therapy.

This study is the first evaluation of a new phase-based treatment programme for CPTSD, consisting, sequentially, of a psychoeducation group (Phase 1), Compassionate Resilience group (CRG; Phase 2), and individual trauma-focused therapy (Phase 3). The main research questions were: how effective is the treatment in addressing both PTSD and CPTSD symptoms; and secondly, how acceptable is the treatment to participants?

The study had two components: firstly, a case series analysis of nine participants examining the effectiveness of the treatment, using measures of PTSD, CPTSD and self-compassion. The second component was a thematic analysis of interviews with six participants who had completed treatment, in order to explore the acceptability of the programme.

Results from the case series analysis indicated that the treatment was effective in reducing CPTSD, PTSD symptoms, and self-criticism. As predicted, visual analysis of symptom scores suggested greater symptom improvement during Phase 2 than Phase 1. Surprisingly, PTSD symptoms improved before Phase 3, with three participants showing clinically-significant improvement by the end of Phase 2. The thematic analysis indicated the treatment was highly acceptable to participants, with over-arching themes identified regarding the experience of group format and experience of phase-based treatment.

Overall, this study appeared to support the use of phase-based treatments for CPTSD, and indicated that compassion-focused interventions may be an effective component therein.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Brown, Gary, Supervisor
  • Billings, Jo, Supervisor, External person
Award date1 Nov 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016

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