Psychological Medicine

Original Article

Beliefs, sense of control and treatment outcome in post-traumatic stress disorder

M.  LIVANOU  c1 a1, M.  BAOSGLU  a1, I. M.  MARKS  a1, P.  DE SILVA  a1, H.  NOSHIRVANI  a1, K.  LOVELL  a1 and S.  THRASHER  a1
a1 From the Section of Trauma Studies, Division of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, University of London


Background. Few studies have shown that maladaptive beliefs relate to treatment outcome.

Method. In a randomized controlled study, 87 patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had exposure therapy alone or cognitive restructuring alone, or both combined, or relaxation. Independent blind assessors assessed patients at pre-, mid- and post-treatment and at follow-up; at those times patients rated cognitive, behavioural and emotional aspects of their disorder.

Results. Baseline beliefs about mistrust, helplessness, meaninglessness and unjustness of the world related to baseline PTSD symptoms but did not predict treatment outcome, though improvement in certain beliefs correlated with more symptom improvement. Several ‘key’ beliefs changed after, and none before, symptoms improved. At post-treatment, sense of control and attribution of gains to personal efforts predicted maintenance of gains at follow-up.

Conclusions. Baseline beliefs and improvement in beliefs did not predict outcome. Post-treatment sense of control/internal attribution predicted maintenance of gains at follow-up. How much sense of control is produced by or causes improvement deserves testing.

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Maria Livanou, Section of Trauma Studies, Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, 38 Carver Road, London SE24 9LT.