The effects of positive patient testimonials on PTSD treatment choice

I was part of the team that did data collection with the trauma-exposed community sample.   The take home message: navigating to the right options can be overwhelming if you’ve never had treatment for mental illness.  Positive treatment testimonials can help direct treatment naive patients to effective options (like prolonged exposure therapy) that might otherwise be obscured in the deluge of available alternatives (effective and otherwise).  Click the image to go to the full paper.


Despite the existence of effective treatment options for PTSD, these treatments are failing to reach those that stand to benefit from PTSD treatment. Understanding the processes underlying an individual’s treatment seeking behavior holds the potential for reducing treatment-seeking barriers. The current study investigates the effects that positive treatment testimonials have on decisions regarding PTSD treatment. An undergraduate (N = 439) and a trauma-exposed community (N = 203) sample were provided with videotaped treatment rationales for prolonged exposure (PE) and sertraline treatments of PTSD. Half of each sample also viewed testimonials, detailing a fictional patient’s treatment experience. All participants then chose among treatment options and rated the credibility of – and personal reactions toward – those options. Among treatment naïve undergraduates, testimonials increased the proportion choosing PE alone; and among treatment naïve members of the trauma-exposed community sample, testimonials increased the proportion choosing a combined PE plus sertraline treatment. These effects were not observed for those with prior history of either psychotherapeutic or pharmacological treatment. Major barriers exist that prevent individuals with PTSD from seeking treatment. For a critical unreached treatment sample, those who are treatment naïve, positive patient testimonials offer a mechanism in which to make effective treatments more appealing and accessible.