Cognitive behavioural therapy for psychopathology in relatives of missing persons : study protocol for a pilot randomised controlled trial

Background: It is hypothesized that the grieving process of relatives of missing persons is complicated by having
to deal with uncertainty about the fate of their loved one. We developed a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
with mindfulness that focuses on dealing with this uncertainty. In this article, we elucidate the rationale of a pilot
randomised controlled trial (RCT) for testing the feasibility and potential effectiveness of this CBT for reducing
symptoms of psychopathology in relatives of missing persons.
Methods: A pilot RCT comparing participants of the CBT condition (n = 15) with waiting list controls (n = 15) will
be executed. Individuals suffering from psychopathology related to the long-term disappearance of a loved one
are eligible to participate. The treatment consists of eight individual sessions. Questionnaires tapping psychological
constructs will be administered before, during, and after the treatment. The feasibility of the treatment will be
evaluated using descriptive statistics (e.g., attrition rate). The primary analysis consists of a within-group analysis of
changes in mean scores of persistent complex bereavement disorder from baseline to immediately posttreatment
and follow-up (12 and 24 weeks post-treatment).
Discussion: A significant number of people experience the disappearance of a loved one. Surprisingly, an RCT
to evaluate a treatment for psychopathology among relatives of missing persons has never been conducted.
Knowledge about treatment effects is needed to improve treatment options for those in need of help. The
strengths of this study are the development of a tailored treatment for relatives of missing persons and the
use of a pilot design before exposing a large sample to a treatment that has yet to be evaluated. Future
research could benefit from the results of this study.
Trial registration: NTR4732 (The Netherlands National Trial Register (NTR))

Lonneke I. M. Lenferink, Ineke Wessel, Jos de Keijser and Paul A. Boelen | 2016
In: Pilot and Feasibility Studies, eISSN 2055-5784 | 2 | 19
Affiliation author(s):