Impact: Findings from this project will improve the mental health and well-being of Veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by refining and evaluating the first post-trauma focused therapy (TFT) intervention designed to help Veterans increase self-efficacy for managing their PTSD symptoms, maintain or build upon gains made in TFT, and increase community engagement. The current VA / Department of Defense PTSD clinical practice guidelines recommend decreasing the frequency and intensity of care (e.g. stepping-down) following successful TFT completion; this project is the initial step in developing the first evidence-based intervention for this important process. The project will advance RR&D?s missions of evaluating interventions designed to maximize psychological recovery and prioritizing functional outcomes and societal engagement. Finally, the project will advance the scientific literature by being the first examination of a self-management intervention designed to be used to step down from an intensive course of therapy for PTSD. Background: TFTs reduce the suffering associated with PTSD; a majority of Veterans who complete prolonged exposure or cognitive processing therapy report improvements in PTSD symptomology, quality of life, and functioning. Despite their effectiveness, emerging data suggest that Veterans who complete TFTs continue to perceive a need for mental health treatment; our pilot data demonstrated that the primary post-TFT mental health treatment need among completers who experienced at least a partial improvement in PTSD symptoms is support for additional practice and reinforcement of skills learned in TFT. Veterans expressed low self-efficacy for maintaining or building upon their existing gains and believed continued contact with their TFT therapist would increase their likelihood of success. These treatment needs are particularly well-suited to a therapist-assisted self-management approach. Self-management protocols teach patients to be responsible for the day-to-day management of their symptoms, thereby emphasizing patients? roles in wellness. The existing literature on self-management interventions for PTSD has demonstrated that such approaches are acceptable, safe, and effective; however, they have exclusively been used as stand-alone treatments or as the first step up in a stepped-care model. Therefore, we are proposing the first examination of a self-management intervention designed to be used to step down from an intensive course of TFT for PTSD. Objectives: The objective of this study is to complete stages 1A and 1B of the Stage Model of Treatment Development for the self-management program for Veterans who have recently completed a course of TFT for PTSD. Specifically, we will: (1) Refine a self-management treatment protocol through eliciting feedback from experienced TFT providers, (2) Conduct a pilot open trial to assess the (a) acceptability of the self- management program components, structure, and materials and (b) feasibility of the self-management program (retention and intervention fidelity) and study approach (screening, recruitment, assessment process), and (3) Explore the effects of the program on Veterans? confidence in managing their PTSD (self-efficacy), functioning, quality of life, community engagement, and mental health symptoms. Methods: To achieve Aim 1, we will conduct semi-structured individual interviews with a sample of TFT providers (n = 10-12), during which participants will be asked to provide feedback on the planned components and structure of the self-management program. To achieve Aims 2 and 3, we will enroll twelve Veterans in a non-randomized, open-trial pilot test of the intervention at the Minneapolis VA Healthcare Systems (VAHCS). Enrolled Veterans will complete survey batteries immediately post-TFT, and survey batteries and qualitative interviews two weeks after the final self-management program therapist contact. Findings from this project will strongly position us to apply for Merit funding to conduct a randomized clinical trial (Stage 2 of the Stage Model of Treatment Development) of this innovative self-management program.
Veterans who complete trauma-focused therapies (TFTs) report improvements in posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, quality of life, and social and role functioning. However, many also report uncertainty regarding their ability to maintain and build upon progress made during TFTs following the end of treatment. Veterans who recently completed a course of TFT believe the likelihood of their ongoing success would be bolstered by mental health services that support additional practice and reinforcement of skills learned in TFT. Currently no evidence-based approach for post-TFT care exists; however, Veterans? reported treatment needs are well- suited to a therapist-assisted self-management approach. The objective of this project is to complete Stage 1 (intervention refinement and piloting) of the Stage Model of Treatment Development for a post-TFT therapist- assisted self-management program designed to help Veterans maintain or build upon gains made in TFT, increase self-efficacy for managing their PTSD symptoms, and enhance community engagement.