The impact of trauma-focused psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder on interpersonal functioning : A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials

Interpersonal functioning is a common concern for people with postttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but is not a key target of most trauma-focused psychotherapies (TFPs). We preregistered and undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) examining the efficacy of TFPs for improving interpersonal functioning. Studies were identified through the PTSD Trials Standardized Data Repository, scholarly databases, and the solicitation of unpublished data from the PTSD research community following current PRISMA guidelines.


We used random effects meta-analysis to estimate within-group change (i.e., pre- to posttreatment) in interpersonal functioning. Meta-analytic findings yielded a medium total effect of TFP on interpersonal functioning, g = 0.54, 95% CI [0.37, 0.72], with high between-study heterogeneity. Sensitivity analyses yielded substantively equivalent point estimates when outliers were excluded, g = 0.55, and when only the most well-established individual TFPs were included, g = 0.57.


In contrast, allocation to a control condition was associated with little average change in interpersonal functioning, g = 0.04 [-0.12, 0.21]. Formal tests did not yield clear evidence of publication bias. Bias-corrected estimates varied but centered around a medium effect, gs = 0.41–1.11. There was a medium-to-large association between change in interpersonal functioning and change in PTSD symptoms, rs = -.35–-.44. The extant literature on TFPs and interpersonal functioning is small and heterogeneous, indicating the need for more focused attention on this outcome. Results suggest that, on average, TFPs are moderately efficacious for improving interpersonal functioning; however, additional treatment may be needed to meet the desired level of improvement.

Benjamin A. Swerdlow, Shelby N. Baker, Feea R. Leifker, Casey L. Straud, David C. Rozek and Lauren M. Sippel | 2023
In: Journal of Traumatic Stress ; ISSN: 1573-6598 | 36 | 3 | 496–510
DOI: 10.1002/jts.22906
Efficacy, Interpersonal Interaction, Meta Analysis, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Psychotrauma, PTSD (en), Randomized Clinical Trial, Systematic Review, Trauma Focused Group Psychotherapy, Treatment