Use of Reflective Journaling to Understand Decision Making Regarding Two Evidence-Based Psychotherapies for PTSD: Practice Implications

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Abstract

As part of a longitudinal investigation on implementation of 2 evidence-based psychotherapies (EBPs) for posttraumatic stress disorder, psychotherapists from 38 Department of Veterans Affairs residential treatment programs across the United States were asked to complete reflective journals every 4 months for a 1-year time period in regard to their successes and challenges in using prolonged exposure and cognitive processing therapy. This paper provides content analysis on the reflective journals of 24 of these providers. Five main themes were identified: EBPs are great but not sufficient for patients in residential treatment with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder and complicated life circumstances, and thus, more treatment is necessary after discharge. Modifications were made or thought needed for optimal outcome and successful delivery of these 2 EBPs; some providers blended aspects of prolonged exposure and cognitive processing therapy; what happens when providers and patients do not agree on choice of which EBP to first implement; and provider concerns on when to discontinue an EBP. Reflective journaling appears to be a promising way for trainers and treatment developers to gather important information about the clinical application and decision-making process for front-line providers, which may offer insight into how to improve EBP implementation and sustainability. Incorporating reflective journaling and strategies for accomplishing this into training, supervision, and consultation may also be 1 strategy for increasing feedback, expanding implementation, and informing ways to increase sustainability of EBPs in populations with multiple clinical and psychosocial needs.

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