Veteran reengagement in PTSD psychotherapy
Veterans with PTSD who drop out of psychotherapy are more likely to return if they have more interactions with the VA health system.
Veterans with PTSD who drop out of psychotherapy are more likely to return if they have more interactions with the VA health system. (Photo ©iStock/marrio31)
Dr. Katherine Buchholz and a team of researchers at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Michigan and Kent State University in Ohio conducted a study that looked for ways to encourage Veterans with PTSD to return to psychotherapy. They found that any interaction with the VA health care system increased the odds that a Veteran would return to complete psychotherapy for PTSD.
The study was published in the September 2017 issue of General Hospital Psychiatry.
Using VA health data, the researchers conducted a study of 24,492 Veterans who had been diagnosed with PTSD during the period 2008–2009, and who had attended five or fewer psychotherapy sessions. From that group, they compared 9,649 Veterans who returned to psychotherapy by the end of 2012 with those who did not.
Using statistical models, the researchers teased out the effects of factors like age and gender, mental health status, and the number of health care visits on the likelihood that Veterans would return to psychotherapy. They concluded that offering Veterans a broad range of health care services could help them return to complete psychotherapy for PTSD. They suggested that educating health care providers across all settings—primary care, specialty care, mental health care—could have an important impact on helping these Veterans.
VA takes a multi-disciplinary approach to helping Veterans who experience PTSD. There are a number of trauma-focused psychotherapies that are helpful for PTSD. However, Veterans with PTSD typically under-use these services—a majority do not complete the full course of recommended psychotherapy. Current guidelines recommend a course of therapy over eight to 15 sessions, with eight sessions considered the minimum for adequate treatment.