Study focus on trauma and depression

Samantha Angelakis
Samantha Angelakis

Post-traumatic stress disorder and depression often go hand in hand, however current treatment practices largely focus on just one disorder.

This delinking of the two conditions has encouraged Flinders University PhD candidate Samantha Angelakis (pictured) to embark on a study to find the best way to help people overcome both post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression simultaneously, using a combination of treatments.

The project, which is a partnership between Flinders University’s School of Psychology and North Adelaide sexual assault clinic Yarrow Place, will test and compare three different forms of treatment to determine the most effective.

The first method focuses on treating PTSD on its own using cognitive processing therapy, a widely used technique which helps clients to work through the traumatic event.

The next two therapies address depression and post-traumatic stress concurrently using a combination of cognitive processing and behavioural activation therapy, a method which aims to increase pleasurable activities in a person’s life and thereby reduce depression.

Participants are randomly assigned to a treatment method and attend a 60 to 90 minute therapy session per week for up to 15 weeks, in addition to three assessments before, immediately after and six months following the final therapy session.

Ms Angelakis said between 30 to 50 per cent of people with PTSD also suffered depression, however research to date had not specifically explored the best treatment practices for these clients.

“There’s a lot of work done on depression and PTSD individually but not when people have both disorders,” Ms Angelakis said.

“Research indicates that just treating the trauma can reduce depression but we think that treatments may be even more effective if we focus on the depression as well,” she said.

The study, which has just received a $1000 grant from the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies, has attracted about 20 participants so far, although Ms Angelakis said a further 50 people were needed.

She said one noteworthy aspect of the project was that it entitled participants to gain up to 15 sessions of free, one-on-one therapy.

“All the treatments we’re trialling are very effective in their own right but we’re just comparing them to see which has the most impact, so people who participate have a lot to gain,” she said.

“The reactions people experience after a trauma can be devastating and can significantly reduce someone’s quality of life so I believe it is imperative that we have studies like this to find out what the best and most effective therapies are so we can help people get their life back on track.”

Anyone who is interested in joining the study should call Flinders University’s Post-Traumatic Stress Research Unit on 8201 5995.

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