A significant number of survivors of hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT) report enduring adverse effects of treatment, including illness-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and general distress. We report results of a randomized clinical trial that tested the effects of a 10-session, telephone-administered cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) intervention on PTSD, depression, and distress symptoms.
Survivors who had undergone HSCT 1 to 3 years earlier (N = 408) were assessed for study eligibility. Those who met study eligibility criteria (n = 89) completed a baseline assessment that included a clinical interview and self-report measures of PTSD symptoms (the primary outcome) and depression and general distress (the secondary outcomes). Next, they were randomly assigned to CBT or an assessment-only condition. Survivors in the CBT group completed 10 individual telephone-based CBT sessions (T-CBT) that included strategies to reduce PTSD symptoms, depression, and general distress. Follow-up assessments occurred at 6, 9, and 12 months after the baseline assessment.
Linear mixed-model analyses revealed that, compared with HSCT survivors in the assessment-only condition, survivors who completed T-CBT reported fewer illness-related PTSD symptoms, including less avoidance (P < .001) and fewer intrusive thoughts (P < .05) as well as less general distress and fewer depressive symptoms (P < .05) even after controlling for potential demographic and medical covariates. These results were consistent across the three follow-up assessments.
A brief, telephone-administered CBT intervention developed for HSCT survivors is an efficacious treatment for reducing illness-related PTSD symptoms and general distress.