When asked what might explain the different effects of CBT and other treatment options, Don McGeary, Ph.D., ABPP, associate professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas Health San Antonio, and one of the study’s authors, told MNT:

“I believe [CBT for headaches] was effective in this study because we purposefully developed a treatment that would be very broad (i.e., address as many headache mechanisms as possible) and focus on function. When people with any kind of pain condition are able to overcome disability and accomplish more meaningful activities in their lives, then pain becomes easier to manage. This was certainly true in our study.”

Dr. McGeary added that veterans were more likely to complete CBT than CPT. He noted that this was perhaps because CBT is less intensive and doesn’t involve delving into traumas that patients may want to avoid.

The researchers concluded that CBT for headaches effectively treats post-traumatic headaches from mild TBI and PTSD in veterans.

When asked what these findings mean for treating PTSD and its symptoms, Dr. McGeary said CBT could lower treatment costs for PTSD and increase treatment access as psychologists require just two hours of training, and care lasts just 4-8 hours. By comparison, CPT requires rigorous training and over 12 hours of care.

“We are still working on identifying who is likely to benefit and suspect that veterans with less severe PTSD symptoms will benefit from the headache intervention while those with more severe symptoms need to be referred to the gold-standard treatment,” he noted.

He added that due to the simplicity of CBT, it might also be effective in children and adolescents; however, they need to test this first.

Shannon Wiltsey Stirman, Ph.D., associate professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, not involved in the study, told MNT that the therapy may work in other demographics, too.

Dr. Stirman noted that the therapy might benefit people who have experienced intimate partner violence or are reluctant or unable to engage in trauma-focused therapy due to medical issues by providing tools to manage aspects of daily life and PTSD symptoms.