There is considerable overlap in the symptoms experienced by individuals who are diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI), and the same events can trigger both conditions. This overlap has provided a barrier to diagnosis and treatment, particularly among individuals in whom the conditions co-occur. The co-occurrence of TBI and PTSD is well documented in both civilian and military populations, and can have cumulative detrimental impacts on functioning. Treating either cognitive or emotional symptoms in isolation is likely to have limited efficacy and result in increased frustration and distress in treatment participants and their families. While evidence-based treatment models exist for the treatment of PTSD and TBI independently, there is no empirically validated treatment that is effective in treating emotional and cognitive impairments among individuals with co-occurring PTSD and TBI.
The proposed symposium presents an overview of empirically-validated approaches to the treatment of TBI and PTSD independently, and based on theory and prior research conducted in civilian and military populations, delineates the specific ways in which each program can be tailored to address the emotional and cognitive impairments experienced by individuals diagnosed with both TBI and PTSD. Next, we will showcase two existing treatment programs that take a comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach to the co-treatment of TBI-related impairments and PTSD. The strengths and limitations of existing models of treatment will be discussed. Finally, we will identify the particular research questions that warrant future investigation. This symposium represents a collaborative effort by civilian and military clinicians and researchers to advance the knowledge and evidence base for effective treatment of co-morbid PTSD and TBI.