Digital PE for PTSD

We are investigating the feasibility of internet-delivered prolonged exposure for patients with PTSD.

Background – Post-traumatic stress disorder

The life-time prevalence of trauma exposure in the general population (e.g. traffic accident, assault or rape) has been estimated to 70%. Typical reactions after a trauma are intrusive memories of the event, flashbacks, and avoidance of trauma related cues. For the majority, these reactions subside within weeks after the event, but for about 20%, these reactions become long-term symptoms as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental disorder characterized by four types of symptoms, intrusive symptoms, avoidance, negative alterations in cognitions and mood and hyperarousal that are present at least one month after the traumatic event and cause significant distress or impairment in important areas of functioning.

Treatment gap – need for digital alternatives

Psychological treatments, commonly using trauma focused cognitive-behavioral techniques, like prolonged exposure (PE) are today recommended as first-line treatments. Unfortunately, there is a substantial discrepancy between demand and availability of evidence-based trauma-focused treatments for PTSD and only a fraction of patients eventually gain access to treatment. Action is clearly needed to increase availability. A possible solution to significantly improve access to evidence-based treatment would be the use of remotely delivered digital treatment, internet-delivered prolonged exposure (I-PE). However, I-PE has a scarcely been tested in a randomized controlled setting and no internet-delivered treatment for PTSD is currently available in Sweden. 

Project objectives:

  • Evaluate I-PE for patients with PTSD: establish feasibility, acceptability and safety for the treatment.
  • Investigate preliminary effects of I-PE in terms of reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress, depression and increase quality of life. 

Description of the study

The study design is a hybrid study using both quantitative and qualitative data. 

We will describe feasibility and acceptability data for the sample including recruitment rate, sample demographics, data attrition, treatment adherence and a detailed dropout analysis. We will also make a preliminary investigation of the within-group effect size. Recruitment is designed to be broadly inclusive with minimal exclusion criteria.  

Qualitative data using a semi-structured interview will be gathered from participants at the end of the treatment collecting data on participants’ views on the treatment, preferences for this type of treatment and how to further improve it. 

Group members involved in the project