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There is limited research on community-based mental health interventions in former Soviet countries despite different contextual factors from where most research has been conducted. Ongoing military conflict has resulted in many displaced persons and veterans and their families with high burdens of mental health problems. Lack of community-based services and poor uptake of existing psychiatric services led to the current trial to determine the effectiveness of the common elements treatment approach (CETA) on anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTS) among conflict affected adults in Ukraine.
We conducted a three-armed randomized-controlled trial of CETA delivered in its standard form (8–12 sessions), a brief form (five-sessions), and a wait-control condition. Eligible participants were displaced adults, army veterans and their adult family members with elevated depression and/or PTS and impaired functioning. Treatment was delivered by community-based providers trained in both standard and brief CETA. Outcome data were collected monthly.
There were 302 trial participants (n = 117 brief CETA, n = 129 standard CETA, n = 56 wait-controls). Compared with wait-controls, participants in standard and brief CETA experienced clinically and statistically significant reductions in depression, anxiety, and PTS and dysfunction (effect sizes d = 0.46–1.0–6). Comparing those who received standard CETA with brief CETA, the former reported fewer symptoms and less dysfunction with small-to-medium effect sized (d = 0.20–0.55).
Standard CETA is more effective than brief CETA, but brief CETA also had significant effects compared with wait-controls. Given demonstrated effectiveness, CETA could be scaled up as an effective community-based approach.