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Pilot test of intranasal oxytocin as an enhancer of brief couples therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder

APA Citation:

Sippel, L. M., Khalifian, C. E., Knopp, K. C., Webster, K., Maglione, J Holcomb, J...Morland, L. A. (2023). Pilot test of intranasal oxytocin as an enhancer of brief couples therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 161, 165-169. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2023.03.001

Abstract Created by REACH:

Brief cognitive-behavioral conjoint therapy (bCBCT) is an 8-session treatment for couples where one partner has posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This study examined an adaptation of bCBCT, adding intranasal oxytocin (bCBCT + OT), which helps regulate stress and fear and can facilitate trauma recovery and relationship functioning. 10 Veterans with PTSD and their partners (N = 10 couples) completed baseline, posttreatment, and 3-month follow-up assessments, as well as a weekly assessment during treatment. Overall, bCBCT + OT appeared to be a feasible, acceptable, and effective treatment for improving PTSD symptoms and relationship functioning.


Mental health

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:


Subject Affiliation:

Spouse of service member or veteran


Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Longitudinal Study
Quantitative Study


Sippel, Lauren M., Khalifian, Chandra E., Knopp, Kayla C., Webster, Katelyn, Maglione, Jeanne, Holcomb, Julie, Flanagan, Julianne C., Monson, Candice M., Holtzheimer, Paul E., Morland, Leslie A.


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) negatively impacts military veterans and their intimate partners. Cognitive-Behavioral Conjoint Therapy (CBCT) was developed to address both PTSD and relationship satisfaction among couples. Although efficacious in improving PTSD, the effects of CBCT and the 8-session brief CBCT (bCBCT) on relationship satisfaction among veteran patients with PTSD are modest. Pharmacological augmentation with the neuropeptide oxytocin is promising for enhancing bCBCT's potency due to its effects on mechanisms of trauma recovery (e.g., extinction learning) and relationship functioning (e.g., trust, communication). The goal of this pilot uncontrolled clinical trial was to examine the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of bCBCT augmented with intranasal oxytocin for improving PTSD and relationship satisfaction among 10 U.S. veterans with PTSD and their intimate partners. Veterans self-administered 40 international units of intranasal oxytocin 30 min before each bCBCT session delivered to the couple via telehealth. Both partners completed pre-assessment, weekly, post, and 3-month follow-up assessments of PTSD symptoms and relationship satisfaction. Couples also provided qualitative feedback related to feasibility and engagement. Nine dyads completed the treatment. There were no serious adverse events. Veterans and partners reported moderate to large effect size improvements in relationship satisfaction (Hedge's g = 0.55 and 1.01, respectively). Veterans reported large effect size reductions in PTSD severity (Hedge's g = 1.87). These results suggest that virtual oxytocin-assisted bCBCT is feasible, scalable, potentially efficacious, and should be tested with a placebo-controlled randomized controlled trial.

Publication Type:

REACH Publication


augmentation, cognitive behavioral conjoint therapy, open trial, PTSD, trauma

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  June 2023

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