Access to peer support combined with telehealth being studied to combat PTSD


Even with access to telemedicine, many PTSD patients do not finish treatment. A new Authealth study combines evidence-based psychotherapy with peer support to address this problem. Credit: Rogelio Castro / UTHealth

The military mantra of “no man left behind” is being applied to help veterans complete treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through evidence-based psychotherapy, combined with peer support, in a targeted study by trauma researchers at the University of Texas Center for Health Sciences in Houston (UTHealth).

The number of veterans with the disorder varies depending on the war theater in which they served, but between 10 and 20 percent of veterans dating back to the Vietnam War have been diagnosed with PTSD, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs. US veterans.

“This particular study studies combat veterans because they are more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder due to various factors, such as the type and intensity of trauma they have experienced, their history of exposure to , being away from home during deployment during these events, or even witnessing something traumatic happening to one of your co-workers, “said Melba Hernandez-Tejada, Ph.D., DHA, associate professor at Louis A. Faillace, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.

Exposure-based therapy is one for PTSD, and therapists have removed many barriers to obtaining this care by using telehealth to overcome treatment-related logistics and stigma.

“With telehealth sessions, you won’t have to worry about needing transportation to the appointment, or the distance from the provider, or being seen entering a mental health clinic, “Hernandez-Tejada said.” When these obstacles are removed, they can only focus on their treatment. and get the help they need to improve. “

However, even with greater access to providers, many PTSD patients do not complete the course of treatment. Hernandez-Tejada said the dropout rate ranges from 25 to 50 percent, based on data from the clinic and research of PTSD patients in the United States.

Hernandez-Tejada believes that combining patients who are currently in treatment with fellow volunteers who have successfully completed PTSD exposure therapy and who are no longer asymptomatic may be one way to address this problem.

During this study, the person undergoing treatment for PTSD will meet with their support partners to familiarize them with the therapy process. The partner accompanies the patient during exposure exercises where they work to overcome their response to situations that may be particularly triggering or traumatic for them, such as going to a crowded market.

“It’s the same concept as having a training partner who encourages you to work hard, but for post-traumatic stress disorder therapy tasks can sometimes involve things like going to really safe places but triggering anxiety, such as a crowded shop or a movie theater. ” Said Hernandez-Tejada. “Patients can work in those situations that trigger PTSD symptoms gradually, in stages of increasing difficulty, accompanied by their partner while being supervised by the therapist. If their anxiety is triggered by going to a place like the supermarket within an hour when it’s full of people, they could start driving to the store and sitting in the parking lot and then getting out of the car and walking to the door before entering and then entering, and so on. ”

This exposure treatment support system is implemented for patients for up to five weeks as part of their therapy.

“We don’t want patients to develop a dependency on their peers, but they want them to use the connection with their peers to deal with and work on their triggers, and then do these things themselves after getting a a certain domain, “Hernandez said. Tejada said.

Hernandez-Tejada hopes this trial will help shed light on the different ways in which her patients with PTSD can be helped and continue to thrive after different distressing experiences.

“Patients with PTSD benefit from social support in treatment and it is always important to learn more about what their triggers are and what can be done to help them cope with these triggers both during and after treatment.” he said.

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Citation: Access to peer support combined with telehealth being studied to combat PTSD (2021, June 21), retrieved June 21, 2021 at -peer-combined-telehealth-combat.html

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