The results of a recent U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) study show that mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy can be more effective in helping to reduce the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans than other forms of group treatment.
The study was carried out at the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where researchers randomly assigned 116 veterans with PTSD to receive one of two types of therapy. One group participated in eight weekly 2.5-hour sessions and a daylong retreat that focused on stress reduction though mindfulness and meditation. The other group underwent nine weekly 1.5-hour sessions of present-centered group therapy that emphasized coping mechanisms for PTSD symptoms in daily life.
According to the findings reported on Aug. 4, 49 percent of veterans who received mindfulness-based therapy reported a significant reduction in their PTSD symptoms, compared with 28 percent of those who received standard group therapy. Veterans from the first group also reported a greater improvement in quality of life after two months.
An estimated 23 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are affected by PTSD. Mindfulness training is part of a growing wave of alternative therapies in mainstream medicine. It involves teaching veterans take-home techniques for confronting memories from war that they would otherwise try to avoid. The breathing and calming exercises of meditation help veterans focus on the present and cultivate awareness during everyday activities.
Mindfulness training could work as an alternative or addition to standard PTSD treatments such as prolonged exposure and cognitive processing therapy, said researchers. However, follow-up research into the long-term benefits of the therapy and its future applications in VA PTSD programs is still needed. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
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