An Open Trial of Web-Prolonged Exposure (Web-PE) for PTSD among Active-Duty Military Personnel and Veterans
Carmen McLean, PhD
Improve access to PTSD treatment by evaluating whether 10 sessions of Prolonged Exposure therapy delivered via the Internet over eight weeks (Web-PE) is effective in reducing PTSD symptoms.
With the growing demand for effective, efficient treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), there is an urgent need to make evidence-based PTSD treatments readily accessible to military service members and veterans. While effective, evidence-based treatments are available, a host of barriers (e.g., availability, logistics, cost, stigma) can deter military personnel and veterans from seeking and receiving care. Internet-based treatments represent an innovative way to overcome these barriers, and they appear promising. However, previously developed Web treatments are not based on treatment protocols with strong empirical support for their efficacy. No study to date has examined Web treatment of PTSD using a well-established treatment program.
The purpose of this open trial is to examine the efficacy of a Web-based version of Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy, “Web-PE,” for PTSD in active-duty service members and veterans who have had post-9/11 deployments. Treatment will involve 10 sessions delivered over eight weeks. Participants will be assessed at pre-treatment and at one and three months after treatment completion to determine if Web-PE effectively and significantly reduced PTSD symptoms and if those improvements were maintained over time.
Web-PE is based on Prolonged Exposure, commonly called PE, which is the treatment with the most empirical support for its efficacy with civilians and veterans. The Web-PE program utilizes PE’s standard treatment elements and format while seeking to deliver this leading therapy in a way that is easier for patients than having to travel to a therapists’ office for a scheduled, in-person appointment.
Web-PE’s 10 sessions, designed to take approximately 60 minutes each, are completed through a secure and discreet online portal to the course, as are all self-report assessments and homework forms that are part of the program. Although Web-PE patients do not meet personally with a therapist, the program is therapist-facilitated. It also utilizes a variety of strategies to promote user engagement, practice of skills, and transfer of skills into daily life. For example, participants have access to media clips that demonstrate the treatment procedures.
If Web-PE proves to be efficacious for combat-related PTSD, this highly accessible and convenient method of treatment could potentially expand access to evidence-based care to thousands of military service members and veterans who currently are deterred by treatment barriers. Given PTSD’s devastating effects on all aspects of a person’s functioning, this could have a hugely positive impact on our nation’s war fighters, helping them maintain or resume highly productive lives in continued military service or as civilians.