Health Services Research & Development

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Meyer EC, Walser R, Hermann B, La Bash H, DeBeer BB, Morissette SB, Kimbrel NA, Kwok OM, Batten SV, Schnurr PP. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Co-Occurring Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Alcohol Use Disorders in Veterans: Pilot Treatment Outcomes. Journal of traumatic stress. 2018 Oct 19; 31(5):781-789.
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Abstract: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) frequently co-occur and are associated with worse outcomes together than either disorder alone. A lack of consensus regarding recommendations for treating PTSD-AUD exists, and treatment dropout is a persistent problem. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a transdiagnostic, mindfulness- and acceptance-based form of behavior therapy, has potential as a treatment option for PTSD-AUD. In this uncontrolled pilot study, we examined ACT for PTSD-AUD in 43 veterans; 29 (67%) completed the outpatient individual therapy protocol (i.e., = 10 of 12 sessions). Clinician-assessed and self-reported PTSD symptoms were reduced at posttreatment, ds = 0.79 and 0.96, respectively. Self-reported symptoms of PTSD remained lower at 3-month follow-up, d = 0.88. There were reductions on all alcohol-related outcomes (clinician-assessed and self-reported symptoms, total drinks, and heavy drinking days) at posttreatment and 3-month follow-up, d = 0.91 (d range: 0.65-1.30). Quality of life increased at posttreatment and follow-up, ds = 0.55-0.56. Functional disability improved marginally at posttreatment, d = 0.35; this effect became significant by follow-up, d = 0.52. Fewer depressive symptoms were reported at posttreatment, d = 0.50, and follow-up, d = 0.44. Individuals experiencing suicidal ideation reported significant reductions by follow-up. Consistent with the ACT theoretical model, these improvements were associated with more between-session mindfulness practice and reductions in experiential avoidance and psychological inflexibility. Recommendations for adapting ACT to address PTSD-AUD include assigning frequent between-session mindfulness practice and initiating values clarification work and values-based behavior assignments early in treatment.