APA guideline on posttraumatic stress disorder aims to help clinicians treating patients

With the PTSD Clinical Practice Guideline complete, APA now seeks comments on obesity guideline.

By Sophie Bethune

The APA Clinical Practice Guideline on the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is now available on the APA website. The guideline, developed by a multidisciplinary panel of scientists, clinicians and community members, recommends interventions for treating PTSD in adults.

Accompanying the guideline, APA also released a comprehensive online resource to help psychologists and other mental health professionals, primary care providers, patients and families learn about evidence-based treatments for PTSD.

Features of the Clinical Practice Guideline for the Treatment of PTSD in Adults, include:

  • Information for clinicians on recommended interventions, including links to training.
  • PTSD assessment instruments used in the studies that informed the clinical practice guideline.
  • Case examples of treatment interventions.
  • Resources for patients and families to help them understand PTSD, its causes, its effects and treatment options.

Psychologists can use the PTSD resource to guide practice

The guideline makes recommendations on the efficacy of both psychological and pharmacological interventions for PTSD. The recommendations are not intended to be mandates or to supplant clinician judgment, but to help guide health care providers and their patients in making decisions about treatment options.

The publication of the PTSD guideline marks the first time that APA has published clinical practice guidelines in psychology. “In medical centers historically, we’ve had to rely mainly on psychiatry guidelines rather than on psychology guidelines,” says Jared Skillings, PhD, chair of the APA Board of Professional Affairs and chief of behavioral medicine, psychology and social work at Spectrum Health Systems in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Lynn Bufka, PhD, APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy adds, “Clinical practice guidelines are used by the rest of health care, including medicine and psychiatry. It’s important for psychology to develop evidence-based guidelines, as without the official stamp of research quality that guidelines provide, psychology will be on the health care sidelines.”

Recommendations are based on a systematic review of scientific evidence, a weighing of the benefits and harms of interventions, consideration of what is known about patient values and preferences, and consideration of the applicability of the evidence across demographic groups and settings.

The PTSD guideline was approved and adopted by APA’s Council of Representatives in February. The guideline recommends eight interventions for treating adults with PTSD, four of which are “strongly recommended” and four of which are “conditionally recommended,” based on the strength and comprehensiveness of the scientific evidence.

While the PTSD guideline is the first clinical practice guideline to be issued by APA, future guidelines on obesity and on depression are in development and set to be published in 2018. APA has started accepting comments on the draft (PDF, 361KB) Clinical Practice Guideline for the Behavioral Treatment of Obesity and Overweight in Children and Adolescents until Nov. 5. To submit a comment, visit this website.

Editor's note: This article was updated Oct. 2, 2017, to reflect the correct deadline.