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Health Services Research & Development

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HSR&D In Progress

November 2017

In this Issue: Improving Care of Mental Health Conditions
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Trauma-Sensitive Yoga for Women Veterans with PTSD and Military Sexual Trauma

Feature Article

Military sexual trauma (MST) and PTSD prevalence rates consistently reported among women Veterans receiving VA healthcare are 21% to 40% and 20%, respectively. Women Veterans who experienced MST and have PTSD exhibit a variety of clinically significant symptoms, including chronic pain, insomnia, and depression. Although there are evidence-based, cognitively-oriented treatments for PTSD, not all individuals respond to or agree to participate in these; therefore, new treatments from innovative theoretical perspectives are needed. Emerging research findings suggest that yoga is an effective therapeutic intervention; however, the body of research examining the beneficial effects of yoga for Veterans with PTSD is limited. Moreover, MST is the most common cause of PTSD among women Veterans. This ongoing randomized controlled trial (2016-2020) will investigate a novel approach to treating not only PTSD symptoms, but chronic pain and insomnia, which appear to be the most intractable symptoms associated with MST and PTSD. Specifically, investigators will evaluate the effectiveness of: 

  • Trauma- Sensitive Yoga (TSY) compared to Cognitive Processing Therapy-Cognitive (CPT-C) in reducing PTSD symptoms, chronic pain, and insomnia;
  • TSY as compared to CPT-C in improving quality of life and social functioning; and
  • TSY as compared to CPT-C on the biological stress response and psychophysiological hyper-responsivity in women Veterans with PTSD related to MST.

Investigators will analyze data collected at five time-points. Sources of data will include: 1) self-report measures (i.e., pain, sleep, quality of life, PTSD symptoms); 2) interview-based assessments (PTSD and depression); 3) immunological measures; 4) heart-rate variability; and 5) psychophysiological measures . Women Veterans will be randomly assigned to 10 sessions of TSY (Experimental Group) or 12 sessions of CPT-C (control group). Comparisons between the groups will be conducted at baseline, and then differences between the groups will be analyzed over time.

Impact: This study could yield meaningful data to support clinical guidelines for a complementary and alternative medicine intervention that could be disseminated to and implemented in VA medical centers nationwide, thus improving the quality of care for female Veterans with PTSD and broadening their treatment options.

Principal Investigator:  Ursula Ann Kelly, PhD, MSN, Nurse Scientist at the Atlanta VA Health Care System.

Trauma-Sensitive Yoga for Women Veterans with PTSD and Military Sexual Trauma project abstract

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