Research Alert

Background: Self-guided interventions may complement and overcome obstacles to in-person treatment options. The efficacy of app interventions targeting posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is unclear, and results from previous studies on PTSD Coach—an app for managing trauma-related distress—are inconsistent. Objective: This study investigates whether access to the Swedish version of the PTSD Coach affects posttraumatic stress, depressive, and somatic symptoms. In addition, we aim to assess the perceived helpfulness, satisfaction, negative effects, response, and remission related to PTSD Coach. Methods: Adults who had experienced potentially traumatic events in the past 2 years were randomized (1:1) to have access to PTSD Coach (n=89) or be on the waitlist (n=90). We assessed clinical characteristics at baseline (semistructured interviews and self-rating scales) and after 3 months (self-rating scales). We analyzed the data in R software using linear mixed effects models, chi-square tests, and Fisher exact test. Results: Intention-to-treat analyses indicated that access to PTSD Coach decreased posttraumatic stress and depressive symptoms but not somatic symptoms. More participants who had access to PTSD Coach responded with clinically significant improvement and fewer instances of probable PTSD after 3 months compared with waitlist controls. Overall, participants found that PTSD Coach was slightly to moderately helpful and moderately satisfactory. Half of the intervention group (36/71, 51%) reported at least one negative reaction related to using PTSD Coach (eg, disappointment with the app or its results, arousal of stress, or distressing memories). Conclusions: Using PTSD Coach may trigger symptoms among a few users; however, most of them perceived PTSD Coach as helpful and satisfactory. This study showed that having access to PTSD Coach helped improve psychological trauma-related symptoms. In addition, we have discussed implications for future research and clinical practice. Clinical Trial: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT04094922; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04094922

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