New Study Recommends Specific Therapies for Veterans with PTSD

Veterans experience a number of challenges when they return home from war. They must reintegrate into society, both socially and emotionally. Often, they face barriers to employment because of injuries sustained during deployment. And veterans sometimes have psychological problems that make it difficult for them to smoothly transition back into family life. The most common mental health issues that veterans face are posttraumatic stress (PTSD) and depression. Because a majority of veterans receive their health care services from the Veterans Administration, it is imperative that PTSD and depression are treated in the most effective manner through these facilities. Sara L. Kornfield of the Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center recently conducted a study based on the new model of care for veterans, the Primary Care-Mental Health Integration (PC-MHI) model. She wanted to see if the current methods used in this model were the most beneficial options for veterans with PTSD and depression.

Kornfield evaluated 141 veterans who had subclinical levels of PTSD. The veterans were categorized into two groups: those from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (recent war veterans, or RWV), and those who were not deployed in those wars (nonrecent war veterans, or non-RWV). Kornfield found that the most common symptom exhibited by the RWV was arousal, while the most common symptom among the non-RWV participants was avoidance. Both groups demonstrated high levels of depression. This raised concern for Kornfield because the first course of treatment for subclinical symptoms of PTSD in the new model is to target avoidance. Because the most distressed veterans—those who recently returned from war—exhibited arousal symptoms more often than avoidance symptoms, Kornfield believes the current treatment approach may not be adequately meeting their needs.

Although avoidance may not have set in as a symptom in the RWV participants, the fact arousal presented the biggest problem for them should make it the primary target of intervention and treatment. Kornfield notes that strategies that work to minimize avoidance, such as prolonged exposure, take several weeks to produce effects. This may not be the best course of action for many of the veterans receiving brief treatments in this new model of primary and mental health care integration. “For these veterans, treatments that target reexperiencing symptoms and/or comorbid depression may be more effective,” Kornfield said. She suggests that future work look at mindfulness and behavior activation as alternative, and potentially more beneficial, avenues of treatment for veterans of recent wars who are experiencing subclinical levels of PTSD.

Kornfield, Sara L., Johanna Klaus, Caroline McKay, Amy Helstrom, and David Oslin. Subsyndromal posttraumatic stress disorder symptomatology in primary care military veterans: Treatment implications. Psychological Services 9.4 (2012): 383-89. Print.

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Tanya


    December 4th, 2012 at 11:39 PM

    My hat truly goes off to all Veterans who give up so much for the sake of our freedom. I know that sounds like a total cliche, but it is so true. They leave behind their families for a year or more, but the deployment really doesn’t end there. They are often left with life long scars that permanently change, often for the worse, the relationships they held so dear before leaving for or sakes. I am so thankful that there are studies being done that will get these deserving heros the help they need.

  • Hayne


    December 4th, 2012 at 11:40 PM

    I really don’t understand why we have to send people to war at this point in time. Just leave these countries to fend for themselves. If they self destruct, what do we care?

  • Sabrina


    December 5th, 2012 at 3:37 AM

    Definitely see how PTSD among veterans could differ from that of those in the general public. If the symptomology and triggers are different then it goes without saying that the treatment should be different and geared toward their specific needs and concerns as well.

  • Gerald Vest, LISW

    Gerald Vest, LISW

    December 5th, 2012 at 2:14 PM

    It is time for the VA to provide health service, sick care labels and meds that produce pain and suffering beyond hope for our Injured Warriors and their families. Do visit my sebsite to view our programs and practices that work wonders.

  • Shelby


    December 6th, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    I think this should be taken up on a priority basis.Because I see so many people that say veterans and the armed personnel are taken good care of and are given a plethora of benefits.But are the benefits and facilities really useful?Not in this case at least.Why don’t they do proper research first and then initiate programs?It is only a waste of taxpayer money to have programs that are not really helping anybody,they could rather have better programs that really help.Then the tax dollars could be said to be used in the right manner!

  • Lori Snyder

    Lori Snyder

    December 6th, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    Good article. Currently, I use tips I learned in the book Faces of Combat to keep my PTSD/anxiety issues under control. A really great, helpful book.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.