Available evidence on the comparative efficacy and acceptability of psychotherapies for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children and adolescents remains uncertain.
We aimed to compare and rank the different types and formats of psychotherapies for PTSD in children and adolescents.
We searched eight databases and other international registers up to 31 December 2020. The pairwise meta-analyses and frequentist network meta-analyses estimated pooled standardised mean differences (SMDs) and ORs with random-effects model. Efficacy at post-treatment and follow-up, acceptability, depressive and anxiety symptoms were measured.
We included 56 randomised controlled trials with 5327 patients comparing 14 different types of psychotherapies and 3 control conditions. For efficacy, cognitive processing therapy (CPT), behavioural therapy (BT), individual trauma-focused cognitive–behavioural therapy (TF-CBT), eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing, and group TF-CBT were significantly superior to all control conditions at post-treatment and follow-up (SMDs between –2.42 and –0.25). Moreover, CPT, BT and individual TF-CBT were more effective than supportive therapy (SMDs between –1.92 and –0.49). Results for depressive and anxiety symptoms were similar to the findings for the primary outcome. Most of the results were rated as ‘moderate’ to ‘very low’ in terms of confidence of evidence.
CPT, BT and individual TF-CBT appear to be the best choices of psychotherapy for PTSD in young patients. Other types and different ways of delivering psychological treatment can be alternative options. Clinicians should consider the importance of each outcome and the patients’ preferences in real clinical practice.