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August 1, 2019

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VA research in action

PTSD Coach app


(Photo courtesy of NCPTSD.)

In 2011, clinicians at VA’s National Center for PTSD, drawing on research and evidence-based practice from in and outside VA, developed PTSD Coach, a self-management mobile app. The app offers psycho-education, symptom monitoring, coping skills, and links to social support and professional resources. To date, PTSD Coach has been downloaded more than 425,000 times in over 100 countries and has shown encouraging results in several studies.

Recognizing that added clinician support to such self-management programs can increase their utilization and effectiveness, researchers developed the Clinician-Supported PTSD Coach (CS PTSD Coach). Tailored to the primary care setting, this intervention combines the PTSD Coach app with four 30-minute sessions (in-person or by phone) of clinician support delivered over eight weeks. Pilot data suggest that CS PTSD Coach leads to improvement in PTSD symptoms and increased acceptance of mental health care.

Researchers are now conducting a multisite randomized controlled trial investigating the impact of CS PTSD Coach on PTSD severity and engagement in mental health care. While outcomes are not yet available, this project has the potential to improve the quality of care for Veterans with PTSD in VA primary care by establishing the effectiveness of an innovative PTSD intervention.

Principal investigator: Dr. Eric Kuhn; VA National Center for PTSD and HSR&D Center for Innovation to Implementation, Palo Alto, California

Selected publications:

Preliminary evaluation of PTSD Coach, a smartphone app for post-traumatic stress symptoms. Kuhn E, Greene C, Hoffman J, Nguyen T, Wald L, Schmidt J, Ramsey KM, Ruzek J. Mil Med. 2014 Jan;179(1):12-8.

Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense mental health apps: A systematic literature review. Gould CE, Kok BC, Ma VK, Zapata AM, Owen JE, Kuhn E. Psychological Services. 2019;16(2):196-207.

Using PTSD Coach in primary care with and without clinical support: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Possemato K, Kuhn E, Johnson E, Hoffman JE, Owen JE, Kanuri N, De Stafano L, Brooks E. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2016 Jan-Feb;38:94-8.

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