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Novel psychological intervention for veterans with PTSD shows promise in UK study

Novel psychological intervention for veterans with PTSD shows promise in UK study


09 Apr, 2024

The feasibility trial of a potential new non-trauma focused talking therapy with veterans showed promising results, and has led to new funding for a larger-scale study

Funded by Forces in Mind Trust, King’s College London undertook a small-scale study of ex-Service personnel with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which compared Trauma Focused Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (TF-CBT) with the new therapy, Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories (RTM).

Forces in Mind Trust is now co-funding a large follow-on study to further explore the viability of a new therapy. It is co-funded by FiMT and a partnership between the Medical Research Council (MRC) and National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).

Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories

Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories is a ‘talking therapy’ with its roots in Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) which seeks to understand and change verbal and non-verbal language patterns to enable someone to think differently about something that has distressed them.

The feasibility trial was conducted with 35 ex-Service personnel undertaking the Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories therapy over two to four sessions in a period of three weeks, and asked participants to recall their memory of their experience, without requiring them to directly visit the traumatic event.

The results from those who took part in this new psychological intervention showed a large reduction in their PTSD scores and nearly half (48%) of participants no longer had a PTSD diagnosis at 20 weeks after therapy, compared to just 16% of those receiving TF-CBT in the study. In addition, no adverse effects were reported by the participants.

Trial Results

The trial met seven of the eight tests necessary to demonstrate feasibility, with the results highlighting the possibility of Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories as a viable alternative to the current Trauma Focused Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, offering greater reductions in PTSD over a shorter time period, also resulting in notable cost-savings.

However, this was a small-scale study to show the feasibility of this new intervention in the UK, and requires further research with a larger sample.

Next Steps

Thanks to the promising results in this study, Forces in Mind Trust has awarded £329,000 for King’s College London to further explore the viability of NLP-based therapies as a treatment for PTSD in UK veterans in a larger trial. The remainder of this £1.9m study will be funded by the MRC and NIHR partnership.

The new study will trial an NLP-based intervention for PTSD called Fast Imagery Reversal Script for Trauma-release (FIRST), which has modified and improved upon Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories.

A further study delivering the intervention is now also being trialled with NHS workers with PTSD in a study funded by the NIHR.

Jackie Sturt, Professor of Behavioural Medicine in Nursing, King’s College London, said,

“Mental health therapies too often have long waiting lists and, unfortunately, therapies offered do not always have the best scientific evidence supporting their use. We are grateful to FiMT, MRC and NIHR for supporting our research to develop and test brief and effective interventions to military veterans and NHS staff living with PTSD. These communities give so much in the course of their employment and yet can suffer so much as a consequence. Our research holds the real opportunity of shortening those waiting lists and getting welcomed therapies to people much more quickly so they can continue to live their working and personal lives to the full.”

Michelle Alston, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust said,

“Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories has shown positive results so far in helping veterans with PTSD. The non-trauma focused nature of the intervention, its quick time-scale and lack of adverse effects are impressive, and offer a potential promising alternative for those ex-Service personnel living with PTSD. FiMT are very pleased that funding has been awarded by the NIHR to further explore NLP-based trauma intervention treatment, and that we are able to co-fund the next step in bringing a new treatment for ex-Service personnel experiencing PTSD.”