Open Access Research article

Prolonged exposure for the treatment of Spanish-speaking Puerto Ricans with posttraumatic stress disorder: a feasibility study

Mildred Vera1*, María L Reyes-Rabanillo2, Deborah Juarbe3, Coralee Pérez-Pedrogo3, Alicia Olmo2, Rafael Kichic4 and William F Chaplin5

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Evaluation and Sociomedical Research and Department of Health Services Administration, School of Public Health, Medical Science Campus, University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico

2 Veterans Affairs Caribbean Healthcare System, San Juan, Puerto Rico

3 Center for Evaluation and Sociomedical Research, School of Public Health, Medical Science Campus, University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico

4 Anxiety Clinic, Institute of Cognitive Neurology, Buenos Aires, Argentina

5 Department of Psychology, St. John's University, New York, USA

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:415  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-415

Published: 17 October 2011



Most of the empirical studies that support the efficacy of prolonged exposure (PE) for treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been conducted on white mainstream English-speaking populations. Although high PTSD rates have been reported for Puerto Ricans, the appropriateness of PE for this population remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to examine the feasibility of providing PE to Spanish speaking Puerto Ricans with PTSD. Particular attention was also focused on identifying challenges faced by clinicians with limited experience in PE. This information is relevant to help inform practice implications for training Spanish-speaking clinicians in PE.


Fourteen patients with PTSD were randomly assigned to receive PE (n = 7) or usual care (UC) (n = 7). PE therapy consisted of 15 weekly sessions focused on gradually confronting and emotionally processing distressing trauma-related memories and reminders. Five patients completed PE treatment; all patients attended the 15 sessions available to them. In UC, patients received mental health services available within the health care setting where they were recruited. They also had the option of self-referring to a mental health provider outside the study setting. The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) was administered at baseline, mid-treatment, and post-treatment to assess PTSD symptom severity. Treatment completers in the PE group demonstrated significantly greater reductions in PTSD symptoms than the UC group. Forty percent of the PE patients showed clinically meaningful reductions in PTSD symptoms from pre- to post-treatment.


PE appears to be viable for treating Puerto Rican Spanish-speaking patients with PTSD. This therapy had good patient acceptability and led to improvements in PTSD symptoms. Attention to the clinicians' training process contributed strongly to helping them overcome the challenges posed by the intervention and increased their acceptance of PE.