Military sexual trauma (MST) is a significant women's mental health issue. There is a
crucial need for effective therapies for MST-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
that are well-tolerated and can be flexibly administered in a variety of treatment settings.
Guided imagery is a novel, transportable intervention technique that meets these
requirements and warrants research in PTSD. The proposed study will be a randomized
controlled trial of the Guided Imagery for Trauma (GIFT) intervention for women veterans
with MST-related PTSD. This minimal contact intervention is designed to increase coping,
affect management and relaxation skills, and to fostering more positive images and beliefs
associated with surviving trauma. The feasibility and tolerability of GIFT have already
been demonstrated in an open-label pilot of 15 women veterans with MST-related PTSD, with
very promising initial results.
Study Aims: The primary aims of this study are: (1) To determine the efficacy of the GIFT
intervention for women veterans with MST-related PTSD. (2) To determine the effects of GIFT
on mental health and health services utilization, and neurobiological outcomes. (3) To
identify predictors of GIFT treatment outcomes.
Research Plan: We will conduct a 12-week randomized, controlled trial of GIFT in 38 women
veterans with MST-related PTSD. Half will be randomly assigned to GIFT and half to a music
control group. GIFT includes a pretreatment orientation and midpoint consultation session
with a clinician facilitator, a guided imagery audio, daily self-monitoring of audio use,
and weekly telephone coaching calls with the facilitator. The music control condition is
designed to control for all nonspecific aspects of GIFT and matches the GIFT protocol in all
ways but the two specific "ingredients" through which GIFT is hypothesized to have its
effect: (1) the guided imagery audio, and (2) the facilitator's help in structuring and
focusing use of the guided imagery audio. Thus, the key differences between the two groups
are that controls will receive an audio of the relaxing background music used on the guided
imagery audio, but not the guided imagery exercises, and controls' contacts with the
facilitator is limited to psychoeducational information and general support, and will not
include help in structuring and focusing use of the audio, which is a key component of GIFT.
1. Age 18-65
2. Status as a women veteran
3. Receives care at the Durham VAMC
4. History of MST, confirmed by CAPS interview
5. DSM-IV diagnosis of PTSD, confirmed by CAPS interview
6. Able to participate in a research interview in English.
7. Regular telephone access
1. Current diagnosis of organic, psychotic, or bipolar disorder
2. Suicidality or parasuicidality
3. Ongoing family violence
4. Alcohol or drug abuse within previous 3 months
5. Enrolled in cognitive-behavioral/exposure-based therapy for PTSD during study period.
Supportive therapy and some psychiatric medications (if stabilized at least 3 months
prior to enrollment) are acceptable. Although patients may use medications, no new
medications will be started during the study. This includes, but is not restricted
to, SSRIs, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, antiepileptic drugs, antidepressants,
buspirone, non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, stimulants, or antipsychotics.