Incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been reported among war-affected children and adolescents. Yet few studies have evaluated the effectiveness of PTSD treatment programs for this population. Gordon, et al. (2009) conducted a randomized control trial to determine the effectiveness of an intervention aimed at ameliorating the effects of PTSD in adolescents. All children in Jeta e Re (“New Life”) High School in Kosovo were screened to participate in the study. Eighty-two students met the criteria for PTSD and were randomly assigned to two groups: (a) intervention group and (b) delayed intervention group. The intervention group participated in a comprehensive mind-body skills group program, a 12-session program consisting of meditation, guided imagery, breathing exercises, relaxation activities, therapeutic discussion, and art therapy. The delayed intervention group received the same intervention once the intervention group had completed the program, approximately 6 weeks later. The study shows that students receiving the mind-body skills group program had significantly reduced levels of PTSD symptoms as compared to the delayed intervention control group.
This study is the first randomized control study to examine the effects of a therapeutic intervention on war-affected adolescents. The study design overcomes the ethical dilemma of withholding promising treatment from the control group by providing treatment to the control group after the intervention group has completed post-intervention interviews. Nevertheless, expectation bias poses a threat to the study’s internal validity, because the results of the improved outcomes may be due to the participants’ expectations that the intervention would be effective. This threat to internal validity is supported by the fact that the intervention was piloted in the school prior to the study, building even more anticipation, as students are bound to share their experiences with other students. This is also be related to the process of testing, which could be a threat to internal validity, because students may become familiar with the measures being used. Because teachers both facilitated the intervention and administered the measures, unintentional expectancy effects pose a threat to the study’s construct validity. In this case, teachers may have subconsciously expected students to show fewer PTSD symptoms in the post-test. Similarly, the students may have wanted to please the facilitators by showing improvements in the post-test. Despite the authors’ explanation that these students would only be comfortable speaking with a familiar adult, future studies should utilize external experimenters to administer the pre- and post-test, because they will be naïve to which students received the intervention and will have no vested interest in the outcome of the intervention.
Gordon, J.S., Staples, J.K., Blyta, A., Bytyqi, M., and Wilson, A.T. (2008). Treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder in postwar Kosovar adolescents using mind-body skills groups: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 69(9), 1469-1476.