Attention control therapy for acute stress disorder: A randomized controlled trial

Adva Segal*, Ilan Wald, Daniel S. Pine, Pinchas Halpern, Yair Bar-Haim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: A subset of people exposed to traumatic events develop acute stress disorder (ASD), and approximately half of people with ASD develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This randomized controlled trial examined the efficacy of internet-delivered attention control therapy (ACT), previously shown to reduce PTSD symptoms, as an adjuvant to treatment as usual in the community for patients with ASD. Methods: About 119 participants with ASD were randomly assigned to ACT or treatment as usual in the community within the first month following their traumatic event. PTSD symptoms and attention patterns were measured. Results: A significant reduction in stress-related symptoms was noted across participants with no difference between the two groups. Approximately half of the participants developed PTSD 2 months after the trauma. High attention bias variability was associated with elevated PTSD symptoms. However, attention bias variability did not change due to the therapy sessions. Conclusions: Internet-delivered ACT was no more effective in reducing risk for PTSD in participants with ASD than treatment as usual in the community. Although elevated attention bias variability was detected in the patients with ASD, ACT failed to engage this cognitive target. Finally, ACT-based prevention research should proceed with caution given the possibility that this intervention might be associated with symptom worsening as indexed by the Clinical Global Impression scale.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1017-1025
Number of pages9
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • PTSD
  • acute stress disorder
  • attention control therapy
  • cognitive bias modification
  • early intervention
  • secondary prevention


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