Back to top

Complementary and Alternative Medicine In VA Specialized PTSD Treatment Programs

Citation:  Libby, D. J., Pilver, C. E., & Desai, R. (2012). Complementary and alternative medicine in VA specialized PTSD treatment programs. Psychiatric Services, 63(11), 1134–1136.

For the full research paper: https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ps.201100456

Abstract

Objective: This survey documented the provision of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments in U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) specialized posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment programs.

Methods: Program coordinators or designated staff from 125 of 170 VA specialized PTSD treatment programs completed and returned surveys between September 2010 and March 2011, indicating which of 32 CAM treatments were offered in that program.

Results: Ninety-six percent of programs reported use of at least one CAM treatment. Eighty-eight percent offered CAMs other than those that are commonly part of conventional PTSD treatments (guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and stress management–relaxation therapies).

Conclusions: The widespread use of CAM treatments in VA PTSD programs presents an opportunity for researchers to assess the effect of CAM on mental health service use and PTSD symptoms among veterans. Future research should assess the effectiveness of CAM treatments and develop methods to tailor these treatments to veterans with PTSD.

Craig’s Notes

This paper describes a survey which documented how many complementary or alternative medicine treatments were used in specialized PTSD treatment programs for military veterans. The survey was sent to 170 program coordinators, and 125 were returned. The survey asked them to list which of 32 complementary alternative medicine (CAM) treatments were offered in their program. One of those treatments listed was EFT of which its use was reported in 4 of the 125 programs. Others included mindfulness (96), guided imagery (74), progressive muscle relaxation (83), Tai Chi (22), Chi Gung (9), Acupuncture (8), hypnosis (7), etc. This can be seen as a huge opportunity for the growth of the use of EFT in VA programs in the future.

96% of the survey respondents reported using at least one CAM treatment in their program, with 88% offering CAMs that were different than the commonly used ones in conventional PTSD treatments (these include guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation and stress management relaxation therapies.)

The authors concluded that the widespread use of CAM treatments indicates an opportunity for further research assessing their effects, and determining which of the CAM treatments is most successful for military veterans with PTSD.