Massed v. standard prolonged exposure therapy for PTSD in military personnel and veterans: 12-month follow-up of a non-inferiority randomised controlled trial

Lisa Dell, Alyssa M. Sbisa, Andrew Forbes, Meaghan O'Donnell, Richard Bryant, Stephanie Hodson, David Morton, Malcolm Battersby, Peter W. Tuerk, Peter Elliott, Duncan Wallace, David Forbes

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Background The utilisation of massed therapy for treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is gaining strength, especially prolonged exposure. However, it is unknown whether massed prolonged exposure (MPE) is non-inferior to standard prolonged exposure (SPE) protocols in the long term. The current study aimed to assess whether MPE was non-inferior to SPE at 12 months post-treatment, and to ascertain changes in secondary measure outcomes. Methods A multi-site non-inferiority randomised controlled trial (RCT) compared SPE with MPE in 12 clinics. The primary outcome was PTSD symptom severity (CAPS-5) at 12 months post-treatment commencement. Secondary outcome measures included symptoms of depression, anxiety, anger, disability, and quality of life at 12 weeks and 12 months post-treatment commencement. Outcome assessors were blinded to treatment allocation. The intention-to-treat sample included 138 Australian military members and veterans and data were analysed for 134 participants (SPE = 71, MPE = 63). Results Reductions in PTSD severity were maintained at 12 months and MPE remained non-inferior to SPE. Both treatment groups experienced a reduction in depression, anxiety, anger, and improvements in quality of life at 12 weeks and 12 months post-treatment commencement. Treatment effects for self-reported disability in the SPE group at 12 weeks were not maintained, with neither group registering significant effects at 12 months. Conclusions The emergence of massed protocols for PTSD is an important advancement. The current study provides RCT evidence for the longevity of MPE treatment gains at 12 months post-treatment commencement and demonstrated non-inferiority to SPE. Promisingly, both treatments also significantly reduced the severity of comorbid symptoms commonly occurring alongside PTSD.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2023


  • Massed therapy
  • military
  • non-inferiority
  • prolonged exposure therapy
  • PTSD
  • RCT
  • trauma
  • veteran

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