Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Focus on Psychological Health

The National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2) a center within the Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) program, researches, develops, evaluates, and deploys new and existing technologies. The Center’s studies involve psychological health and traumatic brain injuries, but the center is also involved in coordinating innovative technology applications to use for suicide surveillance and prevention, developing online behavioral health tools, and providing for mental health applications.

The Center is working with virtual reality mental health applications to treat psychological health (PH) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The Center’s Innovative Technology Applications program is doing research and has increased the number of providers trained in VR. Future plans include using VR to support pre-deployment psychological resiliency, to conduct TBI assessments through VR, and to expand access to care through virtual worlds.

The Center’s T2 surveillance program monitors suicide events across DOD. The Suicide Risk Management & Surveillance Office helps DOD standardize and track suicide events and their risk and protective factors. The DOD Suicide Event Report (DoDSER) is a web software system that enables to the military to capture detailed information and to brief senior leaders on risk factors across all services. The DoDSE is developing new features such as Common Access Card login and account management features.

The Center’s Automated Behavioral Health Clinic (ABHC) offers a standardized and automated check-in process for mental health clinics that treat service members or veterans. The system is a software system custom tailored to the business practices of military behavioral health clinics.

The ABHC has two web portals of entry with one for patients and one for providers. The ABHC uses standardized measures with established reliability and validity to gather clinical information on PTSD, depression, anxiety, panic, anger, and alcohol and substance abuse. Additionally, information is collected on medical histories, childhood traumas, mental health stigmas, marriage quality, combat exposures, and family and military careers.

Future plans include increasing integration across DOD, sub-specialty clinic customization, DoDSER integration, and AHLTA connectivity. This program collaborates with Fort Lewis, WA, Pacific Regional Medical Command, HI, San Diego Naval Medical Center, CA, and Tri-Service in NCR.

One current research project is evaluating the effectiveness of Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) by comparing it to Prolonged Exposure (PE) Therapy in when treating active duty soldiers with PTSD. The rationale for this study is based on the growing evidence that VRET is a high quality effective treatment for PTSD and helps to improve access to caring for soldiers who might otherwise avoid traditional talk therapies due to stigma. Despite its promise as a viable treatment option, there are no published studies comparing VRET to PE in the treatment of combat related PTSD.

The center publishes a quarterly newsletter at that offers information on post deployment conditions. These conditions can include combat stress, conflicts at work, reconnecting with family and friends, depression, anger, sleep problems, substance abuse, stress management, spiritual guidance, living with physical injuries, and health and wellness.

For more information, go to