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A new study carried out by GMRF, led by Principal Investigator Dr Madeline Romaniuk, has revealed promising results after exploring whether Compassionate Mind Training (CMT) had an impact on veterans with PTSD and their partners.

CMT is a psychoeducation and skills-based program that incorporates building skills in the areas of cognitive-behaviour therapy and mindfulness. However, building compassion is at the core of its approach. The aim of CMT is to help people develop self-compassion, compassion for others, and openness to receiving compassion from others.

Why is this research important?

With a reported 85% of current serving and recently discharged ADF members experiencing a traumatic event at some point during service, targeting compassion and self-compassion during therapeutic activities may be helpful for people with PTSD.

“Living with PTSD can be enormously challenging, not just for the individual veteran, but also for the veteran’s whole family system, including partners, children and parents,” said Dr Romaniuk.

“We know from existing research that practicing compassion and self-compassion may be an important addition to psychological therapy for victims of trauma. Findings indicate that and as compassion levels increase, PTSD levels decrease, so it’s important to explore these potential benefits for veterans.”

About our research

This pilot study investigated the use of the CMT group program on ex-service personnel with PTSD and their partners. 12 veterans and their partners participated in the program, which was delivered by two psychologists in two sessions per week for six weeks.

The researchers explored the impact that CMT had on the lives of veterans and their partners, including:
• levels of compassion
• psychological symptom severity
• quality of life
• relationship satisfaction.

This study also explored the feasibility and acceptability of the CMT group program to support ex-service personnel with PTSD and their partners.

“This is the first study to explore CMT for veterans and the first to include partners for the duration of the program. It is vital to provide therapies, skills-building, and support for both veterans with a mental health condition and their partners. This program was unique as it gave participants an opportunity for couples to do this together, and the feedback was excellent.” said Dr Romaniuk.

Key research findings

For the ex-service personnel participants, PTSD symptoms steadily decreased over the course of the CMT intervention.

Specific findings also included:
• An improvement in compassion-based experiences
• A reduction in depressive, anxiety and stress symptoms
• A reduction in external shame and self-criticism
• An increase in quality of life
• An increase in relationship satisfaction for the duration of the program.

“The results showed that the use of CMT for ex-service personnel with PTSD and their partners might particularly help in the ongoing reduction of PTSD, anxiety and stress symptoms and the improvement of compassion-based experiences, including reduced feelings of shame and self-criticism,” said Dr Romaniuk.

Feasibility indicators for the implementation of the CMT training were also promising, with evidence indicating the training program is in demand and well tolerated, with strong acceptability and perceived effectiveness within the ex-serving population.

The article Compassionate mind training for ex-service personnel with PTSD and their partners was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy on 14 January 2023.

The study was a collaboration between GMRF and the Compassionate Mind Research group at The University of Queensland, and was proudly funded by Medibank’s Mental Health & Wellbeing Fund

Learn more about our research.