Reflective Function as a Mediator of Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

2016-01-06 10:38:23 | BioPortfolio


Our recent randomized controlled trial of psychotherapies for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) showed that Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) benefitted patients. The mechanism of action for IPT is unclear; unlike most PTSD therapies, it does not work through exposure to trauma reminders. This assessment study will assess Symptom-Specific Reflective Function, a measure of emotional awareness of one's PTSD symptoms, as a potential mediator of IPT, capitalizing on naturalistic treatment of military veterans with PTSD at Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute.


In a randomized controlled study, the investigators recently showed that fourteen weeks of treatment with Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) worked at least as well as the best studied exposure therapy in relieving symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (American Journal of Psychiatry, 2015). The investigators do not know the mechanism by which IPT works, however, except that it does not work through exposing patients to reminders of their trauma, as most exposure therapies for PTSD do. Rather, IPT seems to work in part by helping numbed patients to reconnect with and to understand their feelings, then use those feelings to handle interpersonal encounters with other people. One promising measure of this possible mechanism of IPT is Reflective Function, which has two components.

Reflective Functioning (RF) measures how well an individual understands his or her emotions as well as the emotions of significant other people in his or her life. A separate aspect is Symptom-Specific Reflective Function (SSRF), which gauges the individual's emotional understanding of his or her PTSD symptoms. Both RF and SSRF can be measured in a tape recorded interview that takes about 20 minutes, in which the interviewer asks the patient to describe relationships with important people in the patient's life, as well as questions about the patient's understanding of his or her symptoms. The tape is then transcribed for scoring.

Dr. Yuval Neria is now opening a Veterans Clinic at New York State Psychiatric Institute to treat armed service veterans and their families who have PTSD and other psychiatric disorders. This clinic will be covered under a separate IRB protocol (pending). As some of the patients in that clinic will receive treatment with IPT, the investigators propose to assess RF, SSRF, and a related measure, the Structured Clinical Interview for Separation Anxiety Symptoms (SCI-SAS), at three points in treatment (before treatment starts; at week 4; and after treatment ends, at week 14) to see whether change in SSRF in particular accounts for improvement in PTSD as measured by the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS), which will be assessed pre-treatment (week 0), mid-treatment (week 7), and post-treatment (week 14). Both veterans and their family members will be eligible for this protocol so long as they meet study eligibility criteria. Because there is no reason to expect that psychotropic medication alters RF, patients who are taking stable doses of medication will be allowed to continue them during IPT treatment.

Study Design

Observational Model: Cohort, Time Perspective: Prospective


Reflective Function as an IPT Change Measure for Patients With PTSD


Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)


New York State Psychiatric Institute
New York
New York
United States


Not yet recruiting


New York State Psychiatric Institute

Results (where available)

View Results


Published on BioPortfolio: 2016-01-06T10:38:23-0500

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