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Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Postwar Kosovar Adolescents Using Mind-Body Skills Groups: A Randomized Controlled Trial

James S. Gordon, M.D.; Julie K. Staples, Ph.D.; Afrim Blyta, M.D., Ph.D.; Murat Bytyqi, B.A.; and Amy T. Wilson, Ph.D.


Objective: To determine whether participation in a mind-body skills group program based on psychological self-care, mind-body techniques, and self-expression decreases symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Method: Eighty-two adolescents meeting criteria for PTSD according to the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (which corresponds with 16 of the 17 diagnostic criteria for PTSD in DSM-IV) were randomly assigned to a 12-session mind-body group program or a wait-list control group. The program was conducted by high school teachers in consultation with psychiatrists and psychologists and included meditation, guided imagery, and breathing techniques; self-expression through words, drawings, and movement; autogenic training and biofeedback; and genograms. Changes in PTSD symptoms were measured using the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire. The study was conducted from September 2004 to May 2005 by The Center for Mind-Body Medicine at a high school in the Suhareka region of Kosovo.

Results: Students in the immediate intervention group had significantly lower PTSD symptom scores following the intervention than those in the wait-list control group (F = 29.8, df = 1,76; p < .001). Preintervention and postintervention scores (mean [SD]) for the intervention group were 2.5 (0.3) and 2.0 (0.3), respectively, and for the control group, 2.5 (0.3) and 2.4 (0.4), respectively. The decreased PTSD symptom scores were maintained in the initial intervention group at 3-month follow-up. After the wait-list control group received the intervention, there was a significant decrease (p < .001) in PTSD symptom scores compared to the preintervention scores.

Conclusions: Mind-body skills groups can reduce PTSD symptoms in war-traumatized high school students and can be effectively led by trained and supervised schoolteachers.

Trial Registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00136357

(J Clin Psychiatry 2008;69:1469-1476. Online Ahead of Print August 12, 2008.)


Received Sept. 28, 2007; accepted Feb. 27, 2008. From The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, Washington, D.C. (Drs. Gordon and Staples); University Clinical Center, Pristina, Kosovo (Dr. Blyta); Grupi Psikosocial, Suhareka, Kosovo (Mr. Bytyqi); and the Department of Educational Foundations and Research, Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C. (Dr. Wilson).

The research was funded by the Oswald Family Foundation, Minneapolis, Minn.; the Oak Foundation, Geneva, Switzerland; the deLaski Family Foundation, Great Falls, Va.; Ms. Lyn Rales, Potomac, Md.; Ms. Judith Loeb Chiara, New York, N.Y.; and the Helen Clay Frick Foundation, New York, N.Y.

Acknowledgments appear at the end of the article.

Except for the direct support of this study noted above, the authors have no financial or other affiliations to disclose relevant to the subject of this article.

Corresponding author and reprints: James S. Gordon, M.D., The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, 5225 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Suite 414, Washington, DC 20015 (e-mail: jgordon@cmbm.org).