VA Mental Health – Health Care Providers Treating PTSD
Health Care Provider
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
A number of resources are available to health care providers who work with Veterans and may be concerned about a Veteran experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Training for Health Care Providers
CDP offers an extensive selection of online and in-person educational opportunities, including in-depth training on evidence-based treatments for PTSD, such as Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT).
This national nonprofit organization is dedicated to bridging the military-civilian divide through free online education. PsychArmor offers an online course focused on posttraumatic stress disorder.
The National Center for PTSD hosts a free live webinar, presented on the third Wednesday of each month, on topics relevant to treating Veterans with PTSD. Free continuing education credits (CEUs) are available for those who register.
Earn free CE/CMEs from over 35 courses related to trauma and PTSD, presented by staff members at the National Center for PTSD.
Health care providers can find more information on the Community Provider Toolkit.
Resources To Share With Veterans
This tool is a great way for Veterans to learn about treatments and consider which one is right for them.
Trauma-focused psychotherapies are the most highly recommended treatment for PTSD. These treatments focus on the patient’s memory of the traumatic event or its meaning.
VA offers three of the most effective trauma-focused psychotherapies:
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
CPT teaches people to identify how traumatic experiences have affected their thinking. It also teaches them to evaluate and change their thoughts. CPT usually takes 12 sessions and can be delivered in an individual or group format. The goal is for patients to learn ways to have more healthy and balanced beliefs about themselves, others, and the world.
- Prolonged Exposure (PE) Therapy
PE works by teaching people to approach trauma-related memories, feelings, and situations that they have been avoiding since their trauma. By confronting these challenges in a gradual way with the help of a therapist, PTSD symptoms can decrease. PE typically lasts for 10–15 sessions.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
After trauma, people with PTSD often have trouble making sense of what happened to them. In EMDR, patients pay attention to a back-and-forth movement or sound while calling to mind the upsetting memory until shifts occur in the way they experience that memory and more information from the past is processed. By processing these experiences, people can get relief from PTSD symptoms and change how they react to memories of their trauma. EMDR can take up to 12 sessions.
SSRIs and SNRIs
PTSD may be related to changes in the brain that are linked to our ability to manage stress. Compared with people who don’t have PTSD, people with PTSD appear to have different amounts of certain chemicals (called neurotransmitters) in the brain. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) are types of antidepressant medication that are believed to treat PTSD by putting these brain chemicals back in balance. They do not work as well as trauma-focused psychotherapy, but they can be effective.
Four SSRIs/SNRIs are recommended for PTSD:
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Venlafaxine (Effexor)
(Medications have two names: a brand name — for example, Zoloft, and a generic name — for example, sertraline.)
Learn more about SSRIs and SNRIs and how they compare with psychotherapies.
In Veterans' Own Words
Clinicians can use Make the Connection as a tool to engage with Veterans or family members who may be reluctant to seek support.