Impact of morally injurious traumatic event exposure on cognitive processing therapy outcomes among veterans and active duty service members

LoSavio, S. T., Hale, W., Straud, C. L., Wachen, J. S., Mintz, J., Young-McCaughan, S., Vacek, S. N., Yarvis, J. S., Sloan, D. M., McGeary, D. D., Taylor, D. J., Keane, T. M., Peterson, A. L., & Resick, P. A.
Apr 25, 2023

 Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health, 9(2), 40-51. 

Introduction: Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is recommended for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and effective across a range of trauma types. However, some have questioned whether CPT is effective for morally injurious traumas, including perpetrating, failing to prevent, witnessing, or learning of acts that transgress moral beliefs and expectations. The aims of this analysis were to examine whether treatment-seeking active duty service members and Veterans with and without potentially morally injurious traumatic events had differences in CPT outcomes.
Methods: Data were pooled from five clinical trials in which active duty service members and Veterans received CPT. Non-inferiority analyses were used to compare rates of receiving an adequate dose of treatment (i.e., eight sessions or a PTSD Checklist-5 score < 20 at the final session) and improvement in PTSD and depression symptoms.
Results: More than 70% of participants received an adequate dose, and those with a potentially morally injurious trauma were no less likely to receive an adequate dose. Both those with and without a potentially morally injurious trauma experienced significant reductions in PTSD and depressive symptoms (all ps < 0.001), and reductions among those with a potentially morally injurious trauma were non-inferior to those without a morally injurious trauma.
Discussion: Findings indicate that active duty military personnel and Veterans endorsing traumas primarily characterized by moral violation engage in and benefit from CPT similarly to those not endorsing such traumas. Results suggest that CPT is a good PTSD treatment option for military personnel with morally injurious trauma.