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Randomised controlled trial comparing narrative exposure therapy with present-centred therapy for older patients with post-traumatic stress disorder

  • J.C.G. Lely (a1), J.W. Knipscheer (a2), M. Moerbeek (a3), F.J.J. ter Heide (a4), J. van den Bout (a5) and R.J. Kleber (a6)...



Evidence-based treatment and age-specific services are required to address the needs of trauma-affected older populations. Narrative exposure therapy (NET) may present an appropriate treatment approach for this population since it provides prolonged exposure in a lifespan perspective. As yet, however, no trial on this intervention has been conducted with older adults from Western Europe.


Examining the efficacy of NET in a sample of older adults.


Out-patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), aged 55 years and over, were randomly assigned to either 11 sessions of NET (n = 18) or 11 sessions of present-centred therapy (PCT) (n = 15) and assessed on the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) pre-treatment, post-treatment and at follow-up. Total scores as well as symptom scores (re-experience, avoidance and hyperarousal) were evaluated.


Using a piecewise mixed-effects growth model, at post-treatment a medium between-treatment effect size for CAPS total score (Cohen's d = 0.44) was found, favouring PCT. At follow-up, however, the between-treatment differences were non-significant. Drop-out rates were low (NET 6.7%, PCT 14.3%) and no participant dropped out of the study because of increased distress.


Both NET and PCT appear to be safe and efficacious treatments with older adults: PCT is non-intrusive and NET allows for imaginal exposure in a lifespan perspective. By selectively providing these approaches in clinical practice, patient matching can be optimised.

Declaration of interest



Corresponding author

Correspondence: J.C.G. Lely, Foundation Centrum ‘45/Arq Psychotrauma Expert Group, Nienoord 13, 1112 XE Diemen, the Netherlands. Email:


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Randomised controlled trial comparing narrative exposure therapy with present-centred therapy for older patients with post-traumatic stress disorder

  • J.C.G. Lely (a1), J.W. Knipscheer (a2), M. Moerbeek (a3), F.J.J. ter Heide (a4), J. van den Bout (a5) and R.J. Kleber (a6)...
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