How often do community-based mental health providers educate and initiate PTSD treatment following training? Answering the question of reach

Dondanville, K. A., Fina, B., Steigerwald, V., McCarthy, K. D., Worley, C., Straud, C. L., Moring, J. C., & Rozek, D. C., for the STRONG STAR Training Initiative
Jun 4, 2021

Implementation Research and Practice, 2, 1-11.

Background: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a significant problem. Clinical practice guidelines recommend evidence-based treatments (EBTs) including cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and prolonged exposure (PE) as firstline treatments. Training in EBTs for PTSD has often been limited to large-scale systems (e.g., U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs). Research has shown that veteran-serving community-based mental health providers have low rates of training and supervision in EBTs for PTSD, suggesting that training initiatives for these community providers are critical to increase accessibility. This study aimed to examine the reach of education about EBTs for PTSD and the initiation of EBT for PTSD treatment among veteran-serving community-based providers participating in a large-scale training initiative.

Methods: Participants (N = 280) were community-based, licensed mental health providers who received training in CPT (67%) or PE (33%). Provider attitudes toward EBTs were measured with the Perceived Characteristics of Intervention Scale. Reach was calculated from provider self-reported follow-up survey data, including caseload total number of patients with PTSD, number of patients provided education on EBTs for PTSD, and patient initiation of EBT for PTSD. Reach was calculated for both education and EBT initiation.

Results: Providers reported positive attitudes toward CPT and PE. Rates of education reach for EBTs for PTSD ranged from 30% to 76%, and rates of EBTs for PTSD initiation ranged from 11% to 35% over the 5-month follow-up period. CPT providers had higher rates of education and initiation earlier in the follow-up period, although differences in initiation rates diminished after 3 months posttraining.

Conclusion: Overall, this study examined how large-scale, training programs can be used to increase the education reach and initiation reach of EBTs for PTSD among veteran-serving community-based providers. Future work should examine how best to augment these training programs to reduce the gap between education and implementation of EBTs for PTSD.