Re-Experiencing Symptom Self-Monitoring as an Early Step in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

August, 2018

This thesis examines a self-monitoring intervention as part of the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.


The efficacy of a brief self-monitoring intervention was evaluated as an initial step in the treatment of PTSD. Participants were 137 American combat veterans, diagnosed with PTSD and enrolled in a five-week psychoeducation group at a large Veterans Affairs medical center while waiting to begin individual treatment. Nine groups were designated as active and the other six served as controls. In addition to engaging in the standard group intervention, participants in the active condition were asked to record the number and content of daily nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts/memories, and physiological and emotional reactions to triggers. Records were collected each week to assess compliance. Symptoms of PTSD and related psychopathology were assessed at the beginning and end of treatment. Data were analyzed for the 88 participants who attended at least two group sessions and completed baseline and final assessments (54 active, 34 controls). The self-monitoring intervention did not significantly reduce symptoms overall, but age moderated response to treatment such that younger veterans in the active group reported a decrease in avoidance symptoms. Compliance with the self-monitoring was low, suggesting that it was experienced as difficult; however, dropout rates did not differ between the conditions. Results indicate that four weeks of intrusion monitoring is not sufficient to effect substantial change in individuals with chronic, severe PTSD. However, it may be an appropriate early step in treatment for individuals with short illness duration and/or exposure to few traumatic events. Follow-up studies are needed to examine the potential long-term impact of this early intervention on subsequent response to more intensive psychotherapies for PTSD.

Full Reference

Brown, A.J. (2013). Re-Experiencing Symptom Self-Monitoring as an Early Step in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Doctoral thesis, Emory University.

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