Self-perception of symptom change in the treatment of PTSD


The current study examined client self-perception of change in posttraumatic stress symptoms during and after treatment in three treatment conditions: psychopharmacology (fluoxetine), an exposure-based psychotherapeutic treatment (EMDR), and a pill placebo. Subjects were 88 patients with mixed-trauma exposure and primarily chronic trauma response. Subjects completed the Davidson Trauma Scale (DTS) prior to beginning treatment, during the treatment phase, and during follow-up. In all conditions, selfreported symptoms of posttraumatic stress decreased during the treatment phase. After treatment, average DTS score for subjects in the therapy condition continued to decrease, while mean score for subjects who received pharmacological treatment increased slightly. Two months after termination of treatment, the average DTS score was 21 for the EMDR condition and 43 for the fluoxetine condition. Results revealed that subjects perceived themselves as improving steadily during the course of treatment, regardless of treatment condition. These results support the idea that there are non-specific factors in therapy (perhaps including factors such as instillation of hope, treatment expectations, and empathy) that lead to self-perceived improvement in symptoms. However, maintenance of perceived gains did appear to favor exposure-based therapy as a treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder.






Elizabeth Hopper
William Simpson
Margarter Blaustein
Joseph Spinazzola

Original Work Citation

Hopper, E., Simpson, W., Blaustein, M., & Spinazzola, J. (2004, November). Self-perception of symptom change in the treatment of PTSD. Presentation at the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies 20th Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA



“Self-perception of symptom change in the treatment of PTSD,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed March 1, 2021,

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