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Credit: Ananya Chandra

A clinical trial conducted by researchers from Penn Medicine has found that shorter Prolonged Exposure Therapy for active military service members is highly effective in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the Philadelphia Voice reported.

The study was published on Jan. 23 in the Journal of the American Medical Association and is the first to indicate that two-week PE treatments were just as effective as eight-week PE treatments and more effective than Present Centered Therapy Treatments. 

The study's principal investigator and Perelman School of Medicine professor Edna Foa said to Penn Medicine that she was optimistic about the findings. 

“This study not only addresses the pressing need for an effective treatment option for PTSD but also encourages a more speedy treatment and recovery, allowing affected service members to return to active duty sooner and enabling veterans to reintegrate into civilian life more quickly," she said.  

The treatment, a form of cognitive behavioral therapy developed by Foa which involves subjects engaging with factors that are reminders of past trauma, usually takes place over eight-to-15 weekly sessions. The method tested in the Penn Medicine study reduces that time by six weeks and offers hope of much quicker recovery. 

Research was conducted using funds provided by a $7.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense received by Penn Medicine in 2012, according to a Penn Medicine press release

The research trial took place at Fort Hood under the guidance of Foa and Alan Peterson, a professor of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, in collaboration with the UTHSCSA, the STRONG STAR Consortium, and the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center. 

Research conducted by Penn Medicine in the past has focused on treatment strategies for patients suffering from both PTSD and alcohol dependency and the effects of PE therapy on adolescent girls, Penn Medicine reported. In 2015, Perelman School of Medicine researcher and faculty member Marcel Bonn-Miller was coordinating several studies investigating whether marijuana could treat PTSD.  

Penn's Counseling and Psychological Services offers counseling and consultation services which may aid in the detection of PTSD. Its Sexual Trauma Treatment Outreach and Prevention clinicians are specifically dedicated to working with students who may suffer from sexual trauma.