The randomized controlled clinical trial will compare the Transcendental Meditation program to prolonged-exposure treatment -- a trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy considered to be the VA's "gold standard." A third group will receive health education. There will be a total of 210 subjects, with the entire study taking four years to complete.
"There's a national crisis taking place with PTSD among the military returning from Afghanistan and Iraq," said MUM professor Sanford Nidich, the study's principal investigator. "PTSD is a common, disabling, and costly condition among veterans, affecting 10% to 20% of this high-risk population."
Two previous pilot studies conducted on PTSD and the experiences of veterans across the country suggest that the Transcendental Meditation program can have a significant impact on reducing PTSD.
The primary success of the treatment will be measured using a standard assessment called the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale. Other study outcomes will include depression, psychological distress, quality of life, substance usage, and physiological/biochemical mechanisms.
"The Veterans Administration acknowledges that it has a huge investment in mental health care, with the large numbers of veterans with PTSD in effect overwhelming the system," Dr. Nidich said.
He said the VA wants to provide a variety of evidence-based treatments to more successfully treat all veterans. Only about 50% of the veterans who undergo treatment with its gold standard prolonged-exposure therapy receive meaningful benefits.
"The Transcendental Meditation technique may be more suitable to veterans reluctant to focus on past trauma through traditional psychotherapeutic approaches," Dr. Nidich said. "In addition, it offers holistic benefits not widely seen in other treatment programs."
The clinical trial will provide further data on the efficacy of the Transcendental Meditation program for combat-related PTSD, and inform future military mental health policy decisions.
Other investigators include Robert Schneider, John Salerno, Maxwell Rainforth, and Carolyn King. Consulting on the research will be psychiatrists Norman Rosenthal and James Brooks. The research team will also include Paul Mills, who received his PhD in physiology from MUM.