March 30, 2012
In a recently published study, VA HSR&D investigator Jill Bormann, Ph.D., R.N., and her colleagues at the VA San Diego Healthcare System found that a meditation-based intervention (mantram repetition) shows potential for reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when used in conjunction with standard treatment.
Standard treatments for PTSD may include medication, prolonged exposure therapy, relaxation training, or a combination of these and other approaches. However, only half of Veterans who need PTSD treatment seek it out, often because they want to avoid the stigma of mental illness or prefer not to participate in trauma-focused treatment. There are alternatives to standard treatment—such as meditation-based therapy—that may be more appealing to Veterans, but often, those approaches are not subject to the same kinds of study protocols as standard therapies. However, in their recently published study, Dr. Bormann and her colleagues applied a single-blind randomized trial to compare a meditation-based approach (Mantram Repetition Program, or MRP) in combination with treatment as usual (TAU) in 136 Veterans diagnosed with PTSD. A mantram is a word or phrase that is considered important to an individual and the MRP is a structured program that involves silently repeating that word or phrase in a private setting.
The study enrolled 136 Veterans, 66 of whom were assigned to the MRP/TAU treatment, and 70 who received TAU. Results showed that after six weeks of treatment, the Veterans who participated in the MRP/TAU portion of the study had a two-fold reduction in their PTSD symptoms when compared with the Veterans in the TAU group. The MRP/TAU group also showed better emotional regulation skills, reduced anxiety, and reported an increase in their overall well-being.
The study results were published online March 12 in Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, a journal of the American Psychology Association.