Evaluating narrative exposure therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression symptoms: A meta-analysis of the evidence base.

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Narrative exposure therapy (NET) is an intervention for trauma spectrum disorders. Originally developed to treat refugee populations, NET has since been tested for efficacy across different settings. In this review, the NET evidence base is examined through a retrieval, synthesis and appraisal of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published since 2002. Two independent reviewers searched online databases including EMBASE, PsycINFO and PubMed. Twenty-four RCTs were selected for a meta-analysis of three outcomes: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis and PTSD and depression symptoms. All outcomes were analysed at short-term (3-4 months), midterm (6-7 months) and long-term (>12 months) data points. A random-effects model was applied to yield standardized mean differences (SMDs) and odds ratios (ORs) as indicators of NET treatment effect. Subgroup analyses for type of trauma and type of control groups were conducted to examine potential heterogeneity. For the NET group, moderate effect sizes for PTSD symptom severity were observed at midterm and long term and at midterm for depression symptom severity. The number of PTSD diagnoses decreased significantly in the short term for the NET condition, but this was not sustained at the long term. Caution must be exercised when interpreting these results due to high heterogeneity estimates and low quality of evidence across trials. Potential small-study effects further complicate the interpretation of the findings. Recommendations are made for augmenting statistical significance research with qualitative analyses of NET efficacy to better inform clinical practice.

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Raghuraman, S., Stuttard, N., & Hunt, N. (2021). Evaluating narrative exposure therapy for post‐traumatic stress disorder and depression symptoms: A meta‐analysis of the evidence base. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 28(1), 1-23.

About This Study:

Outcome(s): PTSD Reduction
Intervention(s): NET
Intervention Duration: Various
Relevant ORR Program: Refugee Health Promotion, Refugee Support Services, Targeted Assistance Grant Discretionary Program, Wilson/Fish
Study Type: Meta-analysis
Full Text Availability: Free
Direction of Evidence: Inconclusive or mixed impact
Strength of Evidence: Strong
Population(s): Refugees
Gender(s) of Participants: All
Age(s) of Participants: Adults
Region(s) of Origin of Participants: Multiple Regions

Relevant Evidence Summaries:

The evidence was reviewed and included in the following summaries: