The feasibility and acceptability of a brief intervention for clients of substance use services experiencing symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder

Katherine L. Mills*, Philippa Ewer, Glenys Dore, Maree Teesson, Amanda Baker, Frances Kay-Lambkin, Claudia Sannibale

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Trauma exposure and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common among clients of substance use services. Existing treatments for these co-occurring conditions tend to be lengthy, treatment retention is relatively poor, and they require extensive training and clinical supervision. The aim of the present study was to conduct a preliminary examination of the feasibility and acceptability of a brief intervention for PTSD symptoms among individuals seeking substance use treatment. Methods: An uncontrolled open-label pilot study was conducted among 29 inpatients of a medicated detoxification unit in Sydney, Australia. All participants completed a baseline interview followed by the brief intervention. The intervention consists of a single, one-hour manualised session providing psychoeducation pertaining to common trauma reactions and symptom management. PTSD and substance use outcomes were assessed at 1-week, 1-month and 3-month post-intervention. Results: PTSD symptom severity (assessed using the Clinicians Administered PTSD Scale) decreased significantly from baseline to 1-week follow up (β - 10.87, 95%CI: - 19.75 to - 1.99) and again between the 1-week and 3-month follow-ups (β - 15.38, 95%CI: - 23.20 to - 7.57). Despite these reductions, the majority of participants continued to meet criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD and there was no change in participants' negative post-traumatic cognitions. Participants expressed high levels of satisfaction with the intervention. Conclusions: Brief psychoeducation for traumatised clients attending substance use services appears to be feasible, acceptable, and may be of some benefit in reducing PTSD symptoms. However, participants continued to experience symptoms at severe levels; thus, brief intervention may best be conceptualised as a "stepping stone" to further trauma treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1094-1099
Number of pages6
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes



  • Brief intervention
  • Post traumatic stress disorder
  • Psychoeducation
  • Substance use
  • Trauma
  • Uncontrolled trial

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