VA Palo Alto Health Care System
PTSD Coach App Shows Success
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has affected many of our brothers and sisters in uniform. Unfortunately, for many Veterans, PTSD often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Many Veterans perceive that society attaches a stigma to mental illness and that perception results in an unwillingness or inability of the Veteran to share their mental struggles and get assistance.
Several years ago, a group of gifted staff from the VA Palo Alto campus, including Dr. Eric Kuhn, a clinical psychologist, created a way for potential PTSD sufferers to receive assistance in the privacy of their home. They developed an iPhone or Android application (app) called PTSD Coach. Simply put, its purpose was to help Veterans understand and manage their PTSD symptoms.
The PTSD Coach has four major sections: Learn, Self Assessment, Manage Symptoms, and Find Support. The app can be used as an adjunct to professional treatment or as a stand-alone tool. Over the course of the past several years, as PTSD Coach has been used by hundreds of thousands of individuals, Dr. Kuhn and his research colleagues have gathered solid clinical evidence that PTSD Coach is useful to our Veterans in managing their PTSD symptoms.
Earlier this year, Dr. Kuhn, et al., published a study evaluating the efficacy of PTSD Coach. A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Smartphone App for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms was published in Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2017, Volume 85, No 3, 267-273.
The very good news is that the study found that the PTSD Coach shows a significant reduction in PTSD symptoms after three months, compared to a control group waitlisted to use the app. The participants also showed reduced depression symptoms and improved psychological functioning.
The app is simple to access and easy to use. Although PTSD Coach was not intended to replace professional treatment, it has the potential to reach many people suffering from PTSD who otherwise may not receive any treatment. It is not understood yet whether using the app could hinder a user from seeking professional treatment or encourage subsequent professional treatment. Dr. Kuhn and colleagues at the VA Syracuse are currently studying this issue in a VA-funded study to find out.
This is just one example of the research and development being undertaken by our talented staff to improve our health and taking place on our VA Palo Alto campus. We, the Veterans, are the fortunate recipients.
For more information and to download the app, visit the PTSD Coach website.