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Friday, September 8, 2017

Errors in the 2017 APA Clinical Practice Guideline for the Treatment of PTSD: What the Data Actually Says

Dominguez, S. and Lee, C.
Front. Psychol., 22 August 2017

Abstract

The American Psychological Association (APA) Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) concluded that there was strong evidence for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), cognitive processing therapy (CPT), cognitive therapy (CT), and exposure therapy yet weak evidence for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). This is despite the findings from an associated systematic review which concluded that EMDR leads to loss of PTSD diagnosis and symptom reduction. Depression symptoms were also found to improve more with EMDR than control conditions. In that review, EMDR was marked down on strength of evidence (SOE) for symptom reduction for PTSD. However, there were several problems with the conclusions of that review. Firstly, in assessing the evidence in one of the studies, the reviewers chose an incorrect measure that skewed the data. We recalculated a meta-analysis with a more appropriate measure and found the SOE improved. The resulting effect size for EMDR on PTSD symptom reduction compared to a control condition was large for studies that meet the APA inclusion criteria (SMD = 1.28) and the heterogeneity was low (I2 = 43%). Secondly, even if the original measure was chosen, we highlight inconsistencies with the way SOE was assessed for EMDR, CT, and CPT. Thirdly, we highlight two papers that were omitted from the analysis. One of these was omitted without any apparent reason. It found EMDR superior to a placebo control. The other study was published in 2015 and should have been part of APA guidelines since they were published in 2017. The inclusion of either study would have resulted in an improvement in SOE. Including both studies results in standard mean difference and confidence intervals that were better for EMDR than for CPT or CT. Therefore, the SOE should have been rated as moderate and EMDR assessed as at least equivalent to these CBT approaches in the APA guidelines. This would bring the APA guidelines in line with other recent practice guidelines from other countries. Less critical but also important, were several inaccuracies in assessing the risk of bias and the failure to consider studies supporting strong gains of EMDR at follow-up.

The article is here.
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