Effects of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive-Behavioral Conjoint Therapy on PTSD and Relationship Function

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VA Office of Research and Development






Behavioral: Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Conjoint Therapy
Behavioral: CBCT for PTSD - Communication Skills

Study type


Funder types

Other U.S. Federal agency


1001-02B (Other Identifier)

Details and patient eligibility


The purpose of this study is to first adapt Cognitive Behavioral Conjoint Therapy for PTSD for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF-OIF) Veterans diagnosed with PTSD and their intimate partners by (1) reducing the overall length of treatment from 15 weeks to 10 weeks through the use of a weekend couple retreat to deliver the first two of three phases of the three-phase protocol; and (2) by integrating mindfulness interventions as a way to mitigate the short, more condensed treatment. Secondly, this study will examine the effects of this adapted Mindfulness-Based Cognitive-Behavioral Conjoint Therapy on PTSD symptoms and intimate relationship functioning.

Full description

Between 5 and 15 percent of Veterans return from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD and the symptoms adversely affect many aspects of their lives, including intimate relationships. Although research findings consistently suggest that the degree of intimate relationship dysfunction correlates with the severity of Veteran's PTSD symptoms, few couples interventions have been developed and systematically evaluated. Cognitive Behavioral Conjoint Therapy for PTSD (CBCT for PTSD) is an intervention developed to treat both PTSD and relationship dysfunction that has shown promising preliminary results. However, the literature suggests that OEF-OIF Veterans prefer shorter time-limited treatments and CBCT for PTSD requires as many as 15 sessions. CBCT for PTSD lacks specific interventions that train meta-awareness, such as those taught in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Mindfulness practices have an emerging evidence base for improving both PTSD and relationship functioning in several important ways. First, practicing mindfulness promotes the relaxation response which counters hyperarousal and results in a calmer approach to difficulties and challenges. Second, avoidance and numbing are countered by mindfully allowing one's experience to be as it is while suspending judgment, which is associated with increased compassion and empathy. Lastly, mindfulness supports a way of being with all life experiences rather than providing techniques just for coping with specific difficulties, which enables individuals to access inner strengths that are already available to them. Just as many physical conditions require more than one rehabilitation approach, there may be a synergy between CBCT for PTSD and mindfulness interventions. Mindfulness skills may assist individuals in tolerating painful emotional reactions to their experiences which may in turn enhance their awareness of associated feelings and thoughts. With enhanced meta-awareness the beliefs that may maintain PTSD symptoms and relationship dysfunction become more amenable to cognitive restructuring. Therefore, the goal of this study is to examine the effects of a Mindfulness-Based adaptation of CBCT for PTSD. The study involves two phases over the course of four years. In Phase 1, mindfulness interventions will be integrated within the Cognitive Behavioral Conjoint Therapy for PTSD treatment manual and the content of the first 7 sessions of CBCT will be adapted to be delivered during a weekend retreat. The integrated intervention, MB-CBCT for PTSD, will be delivered to 10 OIF-OEF Veterans and each of their intimate partners in order to develop and test procedures to train and monitor therapists. During Phase 2, 40 OEF-OIF Veterans and each of their intimate partners will be consented and a randomized controlled trial with be conducted comparing the MB-CBCT for PTSD with a control condition that teaches communication skills drawn from the first 7 sessions of the CBCT manual. We hypothesize that MB-CBCT for PTSD will lead to greater improvement in: 1) Veterans' PTSD symptoms as measured by the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (primary outcome) and PTSD Checklist (secondary outcome); 2) Veterans' and partners' relationship functioning (secondary outcome); and 3) anxiety and depression symptoms (secondary outcomes). PTSD constitutes a substantial proportion of the burden of illness among Veterans. The longer term goals of this project are to conduct a fully-powered randomized controlled clinical trial of MB-CBCT to determine its effectiveness and to finalize the treatment manual.


92 patients




18+ years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

Veteran must: * be enrolled in outpatient treatment * have a confirmed diagnosis of PTSD * have no major change in psychiatric medication for at least 1 month * have a partner mutually committed to maintaining the relationship for the duration of the intervention * willing to forgo initiating psychotherapy for PTSD or other conditions during the study

Exclusion criteria

* severe physical or sexual relationship aggression in the past year * current suicidal/homicidal intent (Veteran or partner) * cognitive impairment that precludes understanding session content (either Veteran or partner) * current substance dependence of Veteran or partner * uncontrolled psychotic or bipolar disorder in Veteran or partner * PTSD diagnosis in the partner * self-mutilation or self-injury within the previous 6 months by Veteran or partner * unwilling to have therapy or CAPS sessions video or audio recorded

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


Single Blind

92 participants in 2 patient groups

Mindfulness-Based CBCT
Experimental group
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Conjoint Therapy for PTSD
Behavioral: Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Conjoint Therapy
CBCT Communication Skills
Active Comparator group
CBCT for PTSD - Communication Skills
Behavioral: CBCT for PTSD - Communication Skills

Trial contacts and locations



Data sourced from clinicaltrials.gov

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