Couples Therapy for PTSD

The tumultuous symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) flow into the world of the victim and the lives of the loved ones around. Seeing a loved one suffer, watching a loved one change, and trying to re-identify with a friend and lover known once-upon-a-time is mentally and physically exhausting. Couples need their own specific therapy for PTSD.

While multiple treatments have proven successful for PTSD, researchers have found that cognitive-behavioral conjoint therapy (CBCT) has shown substantial improvement in treating the symptoms of PTSD and in rekindling and strengthening intimate relationships between couples.

Strength in CBCT

"Strength in numbers" doesn’t necessarily refer to physical strength. Teaming up together can combine mental and emotional strength for a purpose. A research team led by Candice M. Monson, Ph.D. found this to be true. In their research, couples who started CBCT right away were able to heal from PTSD symptoms faster than the control group that was on a waiting list for treatment. Their study was published in the August 2012 issue of the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA).

Between 2008 and 2012, 40 couples were involved in the CBCT study. Some couples were heterosexual while others were same-sex couples, but all the couples had one partner who had PTSD. Most couples were in stable satisfactory relationships.

Couples were either allowed to start therapy right away or were placed on a waiting list. Those who immediately completed the therapy had a significant improvement on the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale and had significantly enhanced their relationship with their partner.

Facing a Problem Together

Just as in any problem that confronts a family, communication is key. When couples argue over how to raise the children, finances, or employment, they must keep talking, must listen, and must work together. CBCT brings couples together as support and understanding in overcoming the symptoms of PTSD.

After completing therapy and follow-up, 81 percent of patients had a huge improvement in their symptoms. Patients found that they experienced less depression and general anxiety. They also were able to better manage their anger.

After participating in CBCT therapy, every participant reported that they were satisfied in their relationship. Sixty-two percent of patients found that their relationship had improved after CBCT.

Future Studies For a Future Together

Researchers agree that more studies will strengthen the results of the power of CBCT. Study participants were taken from a small sample of people of mostly the same economic background and race. Future studies with those who have substance abuse problems or other mental and physical illnesses could provide insightful outcomes.

Trying to heal alone is difficult. All family members are affected when someone they love has PTSD. Mental health professionals know the importance of offering a therapy that involves those loved ones. The use of CBCT may be the link in helping individuals overcome the symptoms of PTSD and in rekindling the intimacy that allows them and their partner to have a happily-ever-after.

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