Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a highly prevalent and pernicious disorder with a frequently chronic course that can cause devastating interpersonal relationship problems that can, in turn, maintain or exacerbate its course. Service members are particularly at risk for PTSD, with estimates of the post-deployment prevalence of PTSD at 13% for Service Members assigned to deployed infantry units. Numerous studies have documented an association between PTSD symptoms and relationship distress in both service members and their partners, including relationship distress and physical and psychological aggression, as well as psychological distress and caregiver burden in partners. In prior work, we have demonstrated that cognitive-behavioral conjoint therapy for PTSD (CBCT for PTSD; Monson & Fredman, 2012), a 15-session couple-based therapy for PTSD, is efficacious in simultaneously treating PTSD and comorbid symptoms and improving intimate relationship functioning. However, the current format of fifteen 75-minute sessions over 15 weeks presents challenges for large-scale dissemination for active duty service members.
The goal of this project was to pilot a scalable version of CBCT for PTSD in which session content is taught in an accelerated, multi-couple group format that has the potential for rapid dissemination and implementation, while capturing the majority of the benefits of the original therapy format. It was also expected that participating in a program with other couples will be associated with low levels of stigma (e.g., no need to self-disclose to leaders or other couples) and provide needed social support for couples struggling with the effects of PTSD.