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Developmentally adapted cognitive processing therapy for adolescents and young adults with PTSD symptoms after physical and sexual abuse: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial

Rita Rosner1*, Hans-Helmut König2, Frank Neuner3, Ulrike Schmidt4 and Regina Steil5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical and Biological Psychology, Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Ostenstr. 25, Eichstätt 85071, Germany

2 Department of Health Economics and Health Services Research, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Martinistr. 52, Hamburg 20246, Germany

3 Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld 33501, Germany

4 Max-Planck-Institute of Psychiatry, Kraepelinstr. 2-10, Munich 80804, Germany

5 Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Institute of Psychology, Goethe University Frankfurt, Varrentrappstr. 40-42, Frankfurt am Main 60054, Germany

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Trials 2014, 15:195  doi:10.1186/1745-6215-15-195

Published: 29 May 2014



Although childhood sexual and/or physical abuse (CSA/CPA) is known to have severe psychopathological consequences, there is little evidence on psychotherapeutic interventions for adolescents and young adults suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Equally sparse are data on moderators of treatment response on PTSD-related epigenetic changes, health care costs and loss of productivity, alterations in cognitive processing, and on how successful interventions affect all of these factors. Early treatment may prevent later (co)morbidity. In this paper, we present a study protocol for the evaluation of a newly developed psychotherapeutic manual for PTSD after CSA/CPA in adolescents and young adults – the Developmentally Adapted Cognitive Processing Therapy (D-CPT).


In a multicenter randomized controlled trial (RCT) D-CPT is compared to treatment as usual (TAU). A sample of 90 adolescent outpatients aged 14 to 21 years will be randomized to one of these conditions. Four assessments will be carried out at baseline, at end of treatment, and 3 and 6 months after end of therapy. Each time, patients will be assessed via clinical interviews and a wide range of questionnaires. In addition to PTSD symptoms and comorbidities, we will evaluate moderators of treatment response, epigenetic profiles, direct and indirect costs of this disorder, and neurophysiological processing of threat cues in PTSD and their respective changes in the course of these two treatments (D-CPT and TAU).


The study will provide new insights in the understudied field of PTSD in adolescents and young adults. A newly developed intervention will be evaluated in this therapeutically underserved population. Results will provide data on treatment efficacy, direct and indirect treatment costs, as well as on associations of treatment outcome and PTSD intensity both to epigenetic profiles and to the neurobiological processing of threat cues. Besides, they will help to learn more about the psychopathology and possible new objective correlates of PTSD.

Trial registration identifier: DRKS00004787.

Abuse; Adolescents; Cognitive processing therapy; Post-traumatic stress disorder