Cardiff University pioneers new virtual treatment for people with PTSD

A team of researchers from Cardiff University have developed a new form of virtual treatment for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), following a large-scale clinical trial.

The results of the project entitled, ‘Guided, internet based, cognitive behavioural therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder: pragmatic, multicentre, randomised controlled non-inferiority trial’,  have been published in the British Medical Journal, this month.

196 adults with a diagnosis of mild to moderate PTSD were involved in the randomised controlled trial of internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), with half of participants receiving face-to-face therapy sessions and half given a guided web and app-based therapy called Spring, devised by Cardiff University. The virtual therapy consists of an eight-week programme with guidance and support from a therapist.

Progress was measured at 16 and 52 weeks on factors such as severity of symptoms, use of alcohol and impact on daily life, with 19 participants and ten therapists also interviewed in depth about their experiences of the treatment as part of the evaluation. Results showed more than 80 percent of people in both groups no longer had PTSD by the 16 week mark.

“Our research has pioneered a new form of treatment for PTSD which could revolutionise NHS treatment of this debilitating condition in future,” said Professor Jonathan Bisson from Cardiff University’s National Centre for Mental Health, adding that the trial found that “guided internet-based CBT is clinically effective, cheaper, flexible and as effective as face-to-face treatment.

“The results should provide more treatment options for people with PTSD and improve their care.”

The study was funded by the UK National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme, with the NHS costs funded by the Welsh Government through Health and Care Research Wales.

The research team is now working with the NHS to disseminate and implement guided internet-based CBT at scale, to maximise its effect.