Brett Litz

Brett Litz
Boston University | BU · Department of Psychiatry

Doctor of Philosophy

About

359
Publications
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24,745
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Publications

Publications (359)
Article
Objective: Evidence-based psychotherapies are efficacious at reducing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, but military and veteran samples improve less than civilians. The objective of this secondary analysis of two clinical trials of cognitive processing therapy (CPT) was to determine if hyperarousal symptoms were more resistant to cha...
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Potentially morally injurious events (PMIEs) entail acts of commission (e.g., cruelty, proscribed or prescribed violence) or omission (e.g., high stakes failure to protect others) and bearing witness (e.g., to grave inhumanity, to the gruesome aftermath of violence), or being the victim of others' acts of commission (e.g., high stakes trust violati...
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Purpose of Review Modern evidence-based practice (EBP) primarily consists of the blanket application of treatment packages to purportedly treat behavioral health syndromes regardless of patient characteristics or context, which may be why current EBPs for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are less effective for treating veterans and military ser...
Article
Background: The risk of suicide among Veterans is of major concern, particularly among those who experienced a combat deployment and/or have a history of PTSD. Design and methods: This was a retrospective cohort study of post-discharge suicide among Vietnam-era Veterans who are members of the Vietnam Era Twin (VET) Registry. The VET Registry is...
Article
The theoretical framework of behavioral economics, a metatheory that integrates operant learning and economic theory, has only recently been applied to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A behavioral economic theory of PTSD reflects an expansion of prior behavioral conceptualization of PTSD, which described PTSD in terms of respondent and operan...
Article
Reports an error in "The effects of web-prolonged exposure among military personnel and veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder" by Carmen P. McLean, Edna B. Foa, Katherine A. Dondanville, Christopher K. Haddock, Madeleine L. Miller, Sheila A. M. Rauch, Jeffery S. Yarvis, Edward C. Wright, Brittany N. Hall-Clark, Brooke A. Fina, Brett T. Litz,...
Article
Objective: Tinnitus and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are among the top service-connected disabilities within the Veterans Health Administration. Extant research shows that there is considerable overlap between tinnitus-related distress and PTSD, including sleep difficulty, irritability, hyperarousal, and concentration problems. However, no...
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Study objectives: Characterize associations between sleep impairments and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, including anger, in service members seeking treatment for PTSD. Methods: Ninety-three US Army personnel recruited into a PTSD treatment study completed the baseline assessment. State of the science sleep measurements included...
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Irritability, angry outbursts, and aggression are common among individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although aggression can be a problem among many individuals with PTSD, research suggests that the relationship between PTSD and aggression might be particularly relevant among military/veteran populations as compared to civilians. T...
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The aims of this study were to identify self-reported point-prevalence rates of concerns about relationship mistreatment, emotional abuse, and physical abuse among military medical personnel and to evaluate demographic and military risk factors associated with these concerns. Participants (N = 721) were U.S. Air Force military medical personnel (61...
Article
Objective: Web-based prolonged exposure therapy (Web-PE) has potential to increase the reach of effective posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment. While there is initial support for the efficacy of Web-PE, no studies have examined the perceptions and experiences of participants receiving PE in this novel, Web based format. Method: We used...
Article
This study tested the efficacy of repeated intravenous ketamine doses to reduce symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Veterans and service members with PTSD (n = 158) who failed previous antidepressant treatment were randomized to 8 infusions administered twice weekly of intravenous placebo (n = 54), low dose (0.2 mg/kg; n = 53) or stan...
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Abstract Background Trauma-focused psychotherapies for combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in military veterans are efficacious, but there are many barriers to receiving treatment. The objective of this study was to determine if cognitive processing therapy (CPT) for PTSD among active duty military personnel and veterans would resul...
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Importance Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs more commonly among military service members than among civilians; however, despite the availability of several evidence-based treatments, there is a need for more efficient evidence-based PTSD treatments to better address the needs of service members. Written exposure therapy is a brief PTSD i...
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The purpose of this pilot study was to determine if the efficacy of imaginal exposure for symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) could be improved by adding aerobic exercise. We hypothesized that aerobic exercise would enhance the efficacy of exposure therapy. Active duty service members with clinically significant symptoms of posttraumat...
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Purpose Moral injury describes the psycho-socio-spiritual suffering that can follow potentially morally injurious events (PMIEs). PMIEs involve actions taken or not taken, or witnessing or being directly impacted by someone else’s actions or inactions, that violate deeply held notions of right and wrong. Moral injury is hypothesized to be a syndrom...
Article
Objective: Previous research with civilian populations has found strong associations between fibromyalgia (FM) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This study is the first large-scale investigation of the prevalence of FM in military service members with and without PTSD. Methods: Participants were active duty military recruited into either...
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Objective: Failing to account for temporal dynamics can hinder our understanding of suicidal ideation and the potential mechanisms underlying increased risk for suicide death and suicide attempts associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To address these limitations, this study used an analytic approach based on Dynamical Systems Theor...
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Objective: To characterize the relationship between head trauma types (blast injury, blunt injury, combined blast+blunt injury) with subsequent headache presentations and functioning. Background: Posttraumatic headaches (PTHs), the most common sequelae of traumatic brain injury (TBI), are painful and disabling. More than 400,000 veterans report...
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The STRONG STAR Consortium (South Texas Research Organizational Network Guiding Studies on Trauma and Resilience) and the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD are interdisciplinary and multi-institutional research consortia focused on the detection, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and comorbid con...
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Background Although there has been research connecting PTSD and social support, there has been little research on effects of treatment, especially in military samples. The current study examined the relationship between these variables over the course of PTSD treatment and assessed differences based on treatment modality (i.e. group versus individu...
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p> Background: Nearly two decades following the 9/11/2001 world trade center (WTC) attacks, a substantial proportion of WTC rescue and recovery workers (“responders”) and WTC survivors continue to experience WTC-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapies (I-CBT) are short-term, evidence-base...
Preprint
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Background: This study tested the efficacy of repeated intravenous ketamine doses to reduce antidepressant-resistant symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Methods: Veterans and service members with PTSD (n=158) who failed previous antidepressant treatment were randomized to 8 infusions administered twice weekly of intravenous placebo (n...
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Introduction Sleep disturbances are common in active duty military personnel and play a key role in the development and maintenance of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research indicates that although insomnia and nightmares improve with successful PTSD treatment, they may remain clinically significant. Few previous PTSD studies have assessed...
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Objective: Many clinicians question whether patients with a history of childhood trauma will benefit from trauma-focused treatment. In this secondary analysis, we examined whether reports of childhood abuse moderated the efficacy of cognitive processing therapy (CPT) for active-duty military with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Methods: Serv...
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Consensus reports have called for interventions to educate civilians about the reintegration challenges that veterans experience. The current study describes veterans' perspectives of what the public should know and what the public can do to help veterans reintegrate into civilian life. We conducted thematic analysis of written essays from a strati...
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Cognitive-behavioral conjoint therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder (CBCT for PTSD) is associated with improvements in patients' PTSD symptoms, partners' psychological distress, and relationship satisfaction. However, little is known about whether CBCT for PTSD is associated with changes in other relationship domains that have theoretical and c...
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Objectives Several recent studies have demonstrated that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and insomnia treatments are associated with significant reductions in suicidal ideation (SI) among service members. However, few investigations have evaluated the manner in which suicide risk changes over time among military personnel receiving PTSD or ins...
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Objective: Scalable, efficiently delivered treatments are needed to address the needs of women Veterans with PTSD. This randomized clinical trial compared an online, coach-assisted cognitive behavioral intervention tailored for women Veterans with PTSD to phone monitoring only. Method: Women Veterans who met diagnostic criteria for PTSD were ran...
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Adaptive Disclosure (AD) is a new emotion-focused psychotherapy for combat-related PTSD. As a second step in the evaluation process, we conducted a non-inferiority (NI) trial of AD, relative to Cognitive Processing Therapy – Cognitive Therapy version (CPT-C), an established first-line psychotherapy. Participants were 122 U.S. Marines and Sailors. T...
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The COVID-19 pandemic has universally threatened the building blocks of mental health, well-being, and quality of life, namely, expectations of safety, connectedness, hope, and individual and societal efficacy. Consequently, unprecedently large numbers of individuals are significantly stressed and many are at risk for relapse of mental health probl...
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Many individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also suffer from insomnia and nightmares, which may be symptoms of PTSD or constitute partially independent comorbid disorders. Sleep disturbances are resistant to current treatments for PTSD, and those suffering from PTSD, insomnia, and nightmares have worse PTSD treatment outcomes. In add...
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Objective: Web-based treatments address many of the logistical and stigma-related barriers to in-person behavioral health care. Prior studies of web-based treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) did not employ gold-standard treatments and have not compared to in-person therapy. Method: We compared a web version of Prolonged Exposure...
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This study was a secondary data analysis of clinical trial data collected from 268 active duty U.S. military service members seeking cognitive processing therapy (CPT) for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at Fort Hood, Texas, related to combat operations following September 11, 2001. Our primary aim was to evaluate changes in PTSD symptom sever...
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Veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) report more aggression than civilians with PTSD. Because emotion regulation difficulties mediated the relationship between PTSD symptoms and impulsive aggression in veterans, we developed an intervention to increase emotion regulation skills. This pilot study tested the feasibility and acceptabilit...
Chapter
Exposure to potentially traumatic events (PTEs) is associated with negative alterations in biology that may create greater risk of cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and immunological problems. PTEs may also negatively affect physical health through two modifiable pathways (i.e., dysregulation of stress reactions, emotional inhibition), which can op...
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Introduction Suicide is a significant problem in the U.S. military, with rates surpassing the U.S. general population as of 2008. Although there have been significant advances regarding suicide risk factors among U.S. military service members and veterans, there is little research about risk factors associated with suicide that could be potentially...
Chapter
This chapter provides an overview of individual and small group–based approaches for prevention and early intervention of posttraumatic stress disorder. Using the Institute of Medicine’s classification system for preventive interventions of mental disorders (universal, selective, and indicated), the chapter describes individual and small group earl...
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In Reply Our article summarized the findings from recent trials of first-line psychotherapies for military-related PTSD, which showed mixed outcomes.¹ We argued for a conceptual shift toward developing and testing multifaceted individualized treatments and the need to counter the narrative that there is sufficiently strong evidence to support exist...
Chapter
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Litz et al. (2009) defined moral injury as the “lasting psychological, biological, spiritual, behavioral and social impact” of exposure to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations. The idea that service members (SMs) and veterans can suffer in a lasting way psychically by events that transgress deeply held moral beliefs has c...
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Current research into Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) examines how and for whom CPT works best, with a focus on understanding treatment outcomes in special populations. Session timing appears to have an effect on CPT outcomes in civilian samples, but the role of timing in CPT has not yet been investigated in a military sample. Thus, this study e...
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Introduction Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTi) is well established as the first-line treatment for the management of chronic insomnia. Identifying predictors of response to CBTi should enable the field to efficiently utilize resources to treat those who are likely to respond and to personalize treatment approaches to optimize outcome...
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Introduction The emotion of anger and behavioral acts of aggression can lead to severe negative consequences, including family violence, legal charges, and death. Anger can be a symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), particularly in service members. Service members report difficulties managing their anger and trouble with the subsequent r...
Article
Objective: Military veterans who interpret their own or others' actions as moral transgressions are theorized to experience moral distress. The purpose of this study was to explore patterns of moral distress and associated psychological, social, and religious or spiritual problems among student veterans. Method: Student veterans (N = 498) retros...
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Study Objective To examine sleep disorder symptom reports at baseline and post-treatment in a sample of active duty U.S. Army Soldiers receiving treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Explore sleep-related predictors of outcomes. Methods Sleep was evaluated in 128 participants in a parent randomized clinical trial comparing Spaced for...
Article
Aggressive behavior is prevalent among veterans of post-9/11 conflicts who have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, little is known about whether PTSD treatments reduce aggression, or the direction of the association between changes in PTSD symptoms and aggression in the context of PTSD treatment. We combined data from three clinical tri...
Article
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTi) is well established as the first-line treatment for the management of chronic insomnia. Identifying predictors of response to CBTi should enable the field to efficiently utilize resources to treat those who are likely to respond and to personalize treatment approaches to optimize outcomes for those w...
Article
Two well-established first-line cognitive-behavioral psychotherapies for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), prolonged exposure therapy (PE) and cognitive processing therapy (CPT), are used in the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and US Department of Defense (DoD) based chiefly on good outcomes in randomized clinical trials (RCTs) with civi...
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For many decades, the U.S. military's general operational guideline has been to limit the use of trauma-focused treatments for combat and operational stress reactions in military service members until they have returned from deployment. Recently, published clinical trials have documented that active duty military personnel with combat-related postt...
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Although there are a number of effective treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), there is a need to develop more efficient evidence-based PTSD treatments to address barriers to seeking and receiving treatment. Written exposure therapy (WET) is a potential alternative that is a 5-session treatment without any between-session assignments...
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Study objectives: The aim of this study was to obtain preliminary data on the efficacy, credibility, and acceptability of Exposure, relaxation, and rescripting therapy for military service members and veterans (ERRT-M) in active duty military personnel with trauma-related nightmares. Methods: Forty participants were randomized to either 5 sessio...
Article
Objective: To examine whether treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reduces anger and aggression and if changes in PTSD symptoms are associated with changes in anger and aggression. Method: Active duty service members (n = 374) seeking PTSD treatment in two randomized clinical trials completed a pretreatment assessment, 12 treatment sess...
Article
Cognitive-behavioral conjoint therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder (CBCT for PTSD; Monson & Fredman, 2012) is efficacious in improving PTSD symptoms and relationship adjustment among couples with PTSD. However, there is a need for more efficient delivery formats to maximize engagement and retention and to achieve faster outcomes in multiple do...
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Resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) is an emerging means of understanding the neurobiology of combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, most rsFC studies to date have limited focus to cognitively related intrinsic connectivity networks (ICNs), have not applied data-driven methodologies, or have disregarded the effect of...
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Objective: We evaluated patterns and predictors of change from three efficacy trials of trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral treatments (TF-CBT) among service members (N = 702; mean age = 32.88; 89.4% male; 79.8% non-Hispanic/Latino). Rates of clinically significant change were also compared with other trials. Method: The trials were conducted in...
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There are multiple well-established evidence-based treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, recent clinical trials have shown that combat-related PTSD in military populations is less responsive to evidence-based treatments than PTSD in most civilian populations. Traumatic death of a close friend or colleague is a common deploym...
Article
The current study examined the role of trauma‐related guilt on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom change during prolonged exposure therapy (PE) as well as the efficacy of PE in reducing three dimensions of guilt (responsibility, wrongdoing, and lack of justification) during treatment. Participants were 331 active duty U.S. military person...
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This article introduces a special issue of the Journal of Traumatic Stress devoted to new directions in the study of moral injury (MI), defined as transgressive harms and the outcomes of those experiences. Although a significant body of research has emerged devoted to the study of the MI construct, a number of conceptual and empirical challenges ha...
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Both negative posttraumatic cognitions and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms decrease over the course of cognitive behavior therapy for PTSD; however, further research is needed to determine whether cognitive change precedes and predicts symptom change. The present study examined whether weekly changes in blame predicted subsequent chan...
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Background: Evidence-based treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are associated with reduction in suicidal ideation (SI), yet the mechanisms underlying this reduction are unclear. The current study investigated improvements in PTSD, depression, and social support as potential mediators of the change in SI over time. Method: Partici...
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Objective: Some veterans may benefit from psychosocial interventions to facilitate reintegration and prevent chronic impairments following discharge from the service. In a randomized controlled trial, an online expressive writing intervention for Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans with reintegration difficulties reduced distress relative to control...
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Introduction Among active duty service members (SMs), little research has examined the prevalence and correlates of nightmares. The current study aims to expand this research and determine the prevalence and correlates of nightmares in 4,119 United States Army personnel scheduled for deployment. Methods Active-duty SMs were recruited at unit-level...
Article
The efficacy of prolonged exposure (PE) on suicide ideation (SI) as a secondary outcome among individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is unclear. The purpose of this study was to compare the efficacy of PE in two formats (spaced, S-PE, 10 sessions over 8 weeks, and massed, M-PE, 10 sessions over 2 weeks) to Present Centered Therapy (P...
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Objective: Using Stein et al.’s (2012) categorization scheme for typing Criterion A events (i.e., Life Threat to Self, Life Threat to Other, Aftermath of Violence, Traumatic Loss, Moral Injury by Self, and Moral Injury by Other) and extending Litz et al.’s (2018) prior work, we investigated the prevalence of trauma types, prevalence of posttraumati...
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In the current paper, we first describe the rationale for and methodology employed by an international research consortium, the Moral Injury Outcome Scale (MIOS) Consortium, the aim of which is to develop and validate a content-valid measure of moral injury as a multidimensional outcome. The MIOS Consortium comprises researchers and clinicians who...
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Trauma-related cognitions about the self and the world have been identified as a mediator of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) change during prolonged exposure (PE) therapy. However, the extent to which negative cognitions mediate PTSD change in other PTSD treatments is unclear. In addition, previous studies have not tested alternate mediators o...
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Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating disorder with limited medication treatment options. Recent reports have described the dearth of research on new drug development as a crisis in the pharmacotherapy of PTSD. There are only two PTSD medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and both are serotonergic antidepre...
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Dropout from first-line posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatments is a significant problem. We reported rates and predictors of attendance and dropout in three clinical trials of evidence-based PTSD treatments in military service members (N = 557). Service members attended 81.0% of treatment sessions and 30.7% dropped out. Individually delive...
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Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use disorder are frequently comorbid and present significant treatment challenges. Unfortunately, since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, the rates of PTSD and hazardous drinking among active duty service members have increased significantly. Previous research on PTSD ha...
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Individuals who are exposed to traumatic events that violate their moral values may experience severe distress and functional impairments known as "moral injuries." Over the last decade, moral injury has captured the attention of mental health care providers, spiritual and faith communities, media outlets, and the general public. Research about mor...