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PTSD Treatment Efforts for Returning War Veterans to be Evaluated

Science Update

man and woman in individual therapy

Joan Cook, Ph.D., of Yale University and colleagues have been awarded funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to evaluate the implementation of two evidence-based psychotherapies for treating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among veterans. The grant addresses the NIH Challenge Grant topic "Strategies to Support Uptake of Interventions within Clinical Community and Settings."

Strategies for promoting evidence-based PTSD treatments in the military are urgently needed as more and more soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with this disorder. The research team will characterize and assess the implementation of two types of therapy—prolonged exposure (PE) therapy and cognitive processing therapy (CPT)—within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) residential PTSD treatment programs. PE involves helping people confront their fear and feelings about the trauma they experienced in a safe way through mental imagery, writing, or other ways. In CPT, the patient is asked to recount his or her traumatic experience, and a therapist helps the patient redirect inaccurate or destructive thoughts about the experience.

Dr. Cook and colleagues will partner with the Northeast Program Evaluation Center, which monitors all VA mental health programming and patient outcomes, and the National Center for PTSD, which oversees the dissemination of PE and CPT nationally among VA providers. They plan to monitor and assess the efforts of more than 250 mental health providers in residential PTSD treatment settings via online questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, and on-site observations.

The researchers note that the project may help improve the dissemination of other evidence-based treatments in federally-funded mental health systems.

The NIH Challenge Grants in Health and Science Research  program is a new initiative funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). This program will support research on 15 broad Challenge Areas that address specific scientific and health research challenges in biomedical and behavioral research that would benefit from an influx of significant two-year funds to quickly advance the area.

Within these Challenge Areas, NIMH has identified 35 topics of particular funding interest that will advance the Institute's mission and the objectives outlined in the NIMH Strategic Plan, the Trans-NIH Plan for HIV-Related Research, and the National Advisory Mental Health Council report on research training. These topics can be found at NIMH's Challenge Grant web page.