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“How Will It Help Me?”: Reasons Underlying Treatment Preferences Between Sertraline and Prolonged Exposure in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Chen, Jessica A. MS*; Keller, Stephanie M. BA; Zoellner, Lori A. PhD*; Feeny, Norah C. PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: August 2013 - Volume 201 - Issue 8 - p 691–697
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31829c50a9
Original Articles

Individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often wait years before seeking treatment. Improving treatment initiation and adherence requires a better understanding of patient beliefs that lead to treatment preferences. Using a treatment-seeking sample (N = 200) with chronic PTSD, qualitative reasons underlying treatment preferences for either prolonged exposure (PE) or sertraline (SER) were examined. Reasons for treatment preference primarily focused on how the treatment was perceived to reduce PTSD symptoms rather than practical ones. The patients were more positive about PE than SER. Individual differences did not reliably predict underlying preference reasons, suggesting that what makes a treatment desirable is not strongly determined by current functioning, treatment, or trauma history. Taken together, this information is critical for treatment providers, arguing for enhancing psychoeducation about how treatment works and acknowledging preexisting biases against pharmacotherapy for PTSD that should be addressed. This knowledge has the potential to optimize and better personalize PTSD patient care.

*University of Washington, Seattle; and †Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH.

Send reprint requests to Lori A. Zoellner, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Box 351525, Seattle, WA 98195. E-mail:

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins