Examining potential contraindications for prolonged exposure therapy for PTSD

van Minnen, Agnes; Harned, Melanie S.; Zoellner, Lori; Mills, Katherine
January 2012
European Journal of Psychotraumatology;2012, Vol. 3, Special section p1
Academic Journal
Although prolonged exposure (PE) has received the most empirical support of any treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), clinicians are often hesitant to use PE due to beliefs that it is contraindicated for many patients with PTSD. This is especially true for PTSD patients with comorbid problems. Because PTSD has high rates of comorbidity, it is important to consider whether PE is indeed contraindicated for patients with various comorbid problems. Therefore, in this study, we examine the evidence for or against the use of PE with patients with problems that often co-occur with PTSD, including dissociation, borderline personality disorder, psychosis, suicidal behavior and non-suicidal self-injury, substance use disorders, and major depression. It is concluded that PE can be safely and effectively used with patients with these comorbidities, and is often associated with a decrease in PTSD as well as the comorbid problem. In cases with severe comorbidity, however, it is recommended to treat PTSD with PE while providing integrated or concurrent treatment to monitor and address the comorbid problems.


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