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University of Wisconsin–Madison

PTSD Psychotherapy for Prison Inmates: Feasibility and Pilot Study

This project lays the groundwork for a sustained research effort to dramatically improve the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in prison inmates.

Prisons and jails are the de facto largest providers of mental health services in the United States and there is a critical need for more effective mental health treatment strategies for incarcerated individuals. There is a particular need for more targeted therapeutic approaches for individuals with PTSD. The prevalence of PTSD is higher in jail and prison populations than in the general population. In fact, the prevalence of PTSD among inmates exceeds that of military combat veterans.

Through a unique partnership with the State of Wisconsin Department of Corrections, researchers will collect and analyze data for both male and female prison inmates. The project will pilot test Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), which is a promising treatment for PTSD, but never before been tested on a prison population. The project also will obtain preliminary efficacy estimates for reducing PTSD symptom severity, and identify putative psychological mechanisms of symptom change through pre-, mid- and post-intervention assessments.

Principal Investigator

  • Michael Koenigs
    Associate Professor of Psychiatry


  • Joshua Cisler
    Assistant Professor of Psychiatry


  • Linnea Burk
    Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology
  • Valeria Maine
    Clinical Psychologist, Veterans Administration Hospital
  • Paul Rathouz
    Honorary Fellow of Biostatistics and Medical Infomatics