Policy recommendations for increasing the use of evidence-based psychotherapy for PTSD in the Military Health System

McLean, C. P., Cook, J., Riggs, D. S., Peterson, A. L., Young-McCaughan, S., Haddock, C. K., & Rosen, C. S., for the TACTICS Research Group
Jan 13, 2023

Military Medicine, Article usac429. Advance online publication.

Few service members with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) receive evidence-based psychotherapy (EBP) in the military health system (MHS). Efforts to increase EBP implementation have focused on provider training but have not adequately addressed organizational barriers. Thus, although behavioral health providers are trained in EBPs, clinic-, facility-, and system-level barriers preclude widespread EBP implementation. Building on work examining barriers to EBP use for PTSD across eight military treatment facilities, we propose recommendations for increasing the implementation of EBPs for PTSD and improving the quality of behavioral health care in MHS outpatient behavioral health clinics. Increasing the use of EBPs for PTSD will require that their use is supported and prioritized through MHS policy. We recommend that psychotherapy appointments are scheduled at least once weekly, as clinically indicated, as this frequency of care is prerequisite for EBP delivery. We propose several recommendations designed to increase system capacity for weekly psychotherapy, including improved triaging of potential patients, incentivizing and supporting group psychotherapy, matching the modality (i.e., group vs. individual) and frequency of treatment to patients’ needs, and using behavioral health technicians as clinician extenders. Additional recommendations include providing ongoing support for EBP implementation (e.g., protected time to participate in EBP consultation) and matching patients to providers based on patient’s clinical needs and treatment preferences. The barriers to EBP implementation that these recommendations target are interrelated. Therefore, adopting multiple policy recommendations is likely necessary to yield a meaningful and sustained increase in the implementation of EBPs for PTSD in the MHS.