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A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Smartphone App for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms

NCJ Number
Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology Volume: 85 Issue: 3 Dated: 2017 Pages: 267-73
Eric Kuhn; Nitya Kanuri; Julia E. Hoffman; Donn W. Garvert; Josef I. Ruzek
Date Published
7 pages

This paper reports on a research study aimed at determining the effectiveness of using a free smartphone application to resolve an unmet need among people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, by offering sound psychoeducational information and evidence-based cognitive behavioral coping tools; it presents the research methodology, outcomes, and implications for practice.


The authors’ objective for the research presented in this paper was to assess the efficacy of a free, publicly available smartphone application (PTSD Coach)  for self-management of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is highly prevalent in the population, but relatively few affected individuals receive treatment for it. The authors argue that smartphone applications (apps) could help address this unmet need by offering sound psychoeducational information and evidence-based cognitive behavioral coping tools. They conducted a randomized controlled trial to assess the efficacy of the free app, PTSD Coach, for self-management of PTSD symptoms. The authors recruited 120 participants who were an average of 39 years old, mostly women and white, and randomized them to either a PTSD Coach or a waitlist condition for three months. Web-administered self-report measures of PTSD, PTSD symptom coping self-efficacy, depression, and psychosocial functioning were conducted at baseline, posttreatment, and three months following treatment. Following the intent-to-treat principle, repeated-measures analyses of variance (ANOVAs) revealed that at posttreatment, PTSD Coach participants had significantly greater improvements in PTSD symptoms, depression symptoms, and psychosocial functioning than did waitlist participants; however, at post-treatment, there were no significant mean differences in outcomes between conditions. A greater proportion of PTSD Coach participants achieved clinically significant PTSD symptom improvement than waitlist participants. The authors conclude that the use of PTSD Coach resulted in significantly greater improvements in PTSD symptoms and other outcomes relative to a waitlist condition, and that given the ubiquity of smartphones, PTSD Coach may provide a wide-reaching, convenient public health intervention for individuals with PTSD symptoms who are not receiving care. Publisher Abstract Provided