Online Program

Use of alternative and complementary therapies to treat combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder: A comprehensive review

Monday, November 4, 2013

Norah Mulvaney-Day, PhD, US Health Division, Behavioral Health, Abt Associates, Cambridge, MA
Mary Jo Larson, PhD, Institute for Behavioral Health, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Kamala Smith, MPH, Division of Health and Environment, Abt Associates, Cambridge, MA
Margot T. Davis, PhD, LICSW, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Caroline Nobo, MS, US Health, Abt Associates, Cambridge, MA
Ronald Hoover, PhD, Military Operational Medicine Research Program, US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, Fort Detrick, MD
Danna Mauch, PhD, US Health, Abt Associates, Cambridge, MA
Evidence suggests high rates of combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and substantial use of alternative and complementary therapies among military personnel. Information about the effects of these therapies on symptoms of PTSD proliferates in the popular press and on-line. The purpose of this review was to identify alternative and complementary therapies promoted for combat-related PTSD in these popular sources and identify evidence gaps for future research. A glossary of therapies was developed, and therapies were grouped into seven categories: mind-body therapies, energy therapies, manipulative and body-based therapies, movement therapies, natural products, spiritual approaches, and other. We conducted a systematic scan of the on-line and popular literature to answer two questions: what claims for effectiveness of these therapies are being made for treating PTSD, and are these claims focused on combat-related disorders? Methods for searching included: 1) analysis of average monthly web searches; 2) comprehensive scans of links related to these therapies and PTSD; and 3) a blog search focused on veterans. Identified therapies were then cross-checked against evidence of effectiveness from a scientific literature review process to identify the specific evidence gaps. Claims of effectiveness were widespread on-line, and stated relevance to combat-related PTSD was frequent. Although many therapies received some attention in the academic literature, few randomized controlled trials have been conducted, and more research is needed. Dissemination of information about the popular claims being made about these therapies for combat-related PTSD matched with the research evidence is necessary. Training resources for clinicians and educational resources for users should be developed.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe the broad range of alternative and complementary therapies being used by those with combat-related PRSD. Identify those alternative and complementary therapies that have scientific evidence of effectiveness. Identify the alternative and complementary therapies being promoted among this population with little attention in the scientific literature.

Keyword(s): Mental Health, Alternative Medicine/Therapies

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was the task leader for this project, and led the research on alternative and complementary therapies for combat-related PTSD. I am a mental health services researcher with more than 15 years of experience studying service patterns among people with mental health disorders. In my work studying disparities in behavioral health services among ethnic and racial minority populations, I have conducted several analyses looking at use of alternative therapies within these populations.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.