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Couples therapy shows promise for partners with PTSD

August 14, 2012|By Mary MacVean, Los Angeles Times
  • Marines fill out forms to take part in post-traumatic stress disorder research.
Marines fill out forms to take part in post-traumatic stress disorder research. (Associated Press )

It makes sense that a person with post-traumatic stress disorder might have relationship problems, too. And researchers have now found that couples therapy that’s designed around PTSD helps both problems.

The partner with PTSD reported reduced symptoms, and the couple reported increased relationship satisfaction from couples therapy, researchers reported in the Aug. 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

They compared 20 couples who got the therapy with 20 couples who were put on a waiting list for it in 2008 to 2012. The couples, in Boston and Toronto, were diverse in sexual orientation and type of trauma.

“There are well-documented associations between PTSD and intimate relationship problems,” the researchers wrote. Individual psychotherapy for PTSD help that disorder, but improvements have not been found specifically in intimate relationships, they wrote.

After the joint therapy, the PTSD symptoms were three times less severe than for the people on the waiting list. And they reported that relationship satisfaction increased four times more than the couples on the waiting list. A followup three months later found that the treatment results were maintained, the researchers said.

“There is increasing recognition that intimate relationships play a potent role in recovery from PTSD,” the researchers wrote.

In an accompanying editorial in the journal, Lisa M. Jajavits of the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System called the therapies "important scientific attempts to study new options for the treatment of PTSD."

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