A mindfulness-based therapy in which individuals learn to repeat personalized mantras to relax their thoughts appears to be more effective at reducing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms than a problem-solving psychotherapy known as present-centered therapy, reports a study in AJP in Advance.
Mantram therapy is based on the premise that silently repeating a personally meaningful word or phrase (mantra) promotes relaxation, increases emotional regulation, and reduces stress. Present-centered therapy is a psychotherapy that focuses patients on the present to help them actively target daily challenges related to their past trauma and PTSD symptoms.
“Mantram therapy may be a valuable addition to current PTSD treatments because it incorporates some components of evidence-based treatments, yet without the trauma focus that can deter some clients,” wrote Jill Bormann, Ph.D., R.N., of the University of San Diego and colleagues.
Previous uncontrolled studies of veterans have suggested that mantram therapy can reduce PTSD symptom severity, help veterans manage sleep disturbances, and more. For the current study, Bormann and colleagues compared PTSD outcomes in veterans who were randomly assigned to either mantram therapy or present-centered therapy. A total of 173 veterans from two Veterans Affairs outpatient clinics diagnosed with military-related PTSD were assigned to receive eight individual weekly one-hour sessions of either mantram or present-centered therapy.
The mantram group experienced significantly greater improvements in their symptoms as assessed by the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale at both the end of the study and at a two-month follow-up. Additionally, 59% of participants in the mantram group who completed the two-month follow-up no longer met criteria for PTSD, which was significantly higher than the 40% rate in the present-centered group. Participants who received mantram therapy also reported greater reductions in insomnia, a common occurrence in patients with PTSD, compared with those who received present-centered therapy.
Bormann and colleagues acknowledged that the study did not compare mantram therapy with either cognitive processing therapy or prolonged exposure, two evidence-based PTSD therapies currently used by the Veterans Health Administration. “It would be premature to draw any conclusions about the efficacy of mantram therapy compared with these established treatments, or other treatments, without head-to-head trials,” they wrote.
“Further assessment of mantram therapy in trials and real-world settings is clearly desirable, especially because mantram therapy may appeal to some veterans who may prefer therapies that are not trauma-focused, that include some element of spirituality, or that reduce sleep disturbances,” they concluded.
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