A new approach in offering treatment to former Service personnel with mental health conditions including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has revealed positive results…

A year-long tele-therapy pilot study, funded by The Forces in Mind Trust and undertaken by Combat Stress, has shown it to be an accessible, flexible and cost-effective approach to delivering trauma-focused therapies. Tele-therapy provides therapy through a live video connection, over the internet such as Skype.

The purpose was to trial an alternative type of therapy to overcome issues that prevent veterans from seeking help. Despite there being a higher prevalence of mental health difficulties among former service personnel compared to the general population, research of UK veterans has suggested that only 30-50% of those with mental health issues access services for support.

A number of reasons have been suggested for this, including issues related to stigma, practical issues around not being able to access services due to time constraints, and not knowing where to turn for support. Evidence from the tele-therapy study shows it to be an accessible, flexible and cost-effective approach to delivering trauma-focused therapies.

Recommendations were made by Dr Dominic Murphy, lead author of the study, about using tele-therapy to treat more veterans in future, these include:

  • Preparing veterans for the demands of the therapy
  • Ensuring tele-therapy is offered formally in the same way as outpatient therapy, e.g. a formal attendance and appointment policy
  • Allowing flexibility by creating evening appointments to ensure veterans can attend
  • Having a clear protocol to deal with technical difficulties, such as poor internet connection, which can result in sudden termination of therapy-session communication

Veterans attending Combat Stress’ treatment centres were invited to take part in tele-therapy, with a total of 54 people asked, resulting in 27 participants. Data was collected about treatment uptake, attendance, drop-out rates, time to complete therapy and the cost per case. Quantitative analyses were used to assess the effectiveness of tele-therapy using self-report measures of PTSD, anxiety, depression, anger and alcohol use.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “The findings from this pilot study show that tele-therapy is an approach to treatment that could benefit ex-Service personnel, in particular those who find it difficult to engage in face-to-face therapy. The recommendations and lessons learned in this trial offer an opportunity for policymakers and service providers to take tele-therapy forward as a cost-effective, feasible and acceptable service for UK Veterans with PTSD.”

Dr Dominic Murphy, Head of Research at Combat Stress and lead author of the study, said: “We were pleased with our results. Importantly, we had positive feedback from veterans telling us they found tele-therapy to be a good way to receive support. Several people told us that they were not able to engage in face-to-face therapy but tele-therapy allowed to them to complete treatment.”

You can read the full report here.