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01.12.2020 | Study protocol | Ausgabe 1/2020 Open Access

Trials 1/2020

Peer support during in vivo exposure homework to reverse attrition from prolonged exposure therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD): description of a randomized controlled trial

Trials > Ausgabe 1/2020
Melba A. Hernandez-Tejada, Wendy Muzzy, Matthew Price, Stephanie Hamski, Stephanie Hart, Edna Foa, Ron Acierno
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Effective treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (e.g., prolonged exposure (PE); cognitive processing therapy (CPT)) exist and are widely adopted by the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Defense (DoD). Unfortunately, dropout from these treatments regularly exceeds 30%. However, in a recent survey of patients who dropped out of PE, approximately half indicated a greater likelihood of completion if a peer who had completed treatment were available to help with the in vivo exposure homework.


We will use a between-groups randomized controlled design with repeated assessment at baseline, post treatment, and 3- and 6-month follow-up across measures of PTSD, depression, and functioning with 150 veterans who have indicated that they intend to drop out of treatment. Participants will be randomly assigned to one of two PE + Peer Support conditions: (1) a peer will offer support directly during in vivo exposure homework for 3–4 weeks; vs (2) a peer will call weekly for 3–4 weeks to offer general support and to check in on treatment progress.


The present study was designed to test the hypothesis that dropout from exposure-based PTSD treatment may be mitigated by using peers as support agents directly during PE in vivo homework experiences. Specifically, we intend to determine: whether patients who have dropped out of PE and are offered the “in vivo peer” adjunctive component to PE therapy will (1) return and complete treatment and (2) evince reduced PTSD symptomatology, compared to the same PE treatment, but with general peer support more reflective of current VA practices.

Trial registration

This study protocol is approved and information is available at, ID: NCT03485391. Registered on 2 April 2018.
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