Increased Utilization of Prolonged Exposure and Cognitive Processing Therapy Over Time: A Case Example From a Large Veterans Affairs Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Clinic

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Abstract

Prior single-site and regional studies have documented difficulties in implementing prolonged exposure (PE) and cognitive processing therapy (CPT) for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) into practice in Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers, estimating that between 6% and 13% of VA patients with PTSD receive PE or CPT (Lu, Plagge, Marsiglio, & Dobscha, 2016; Mott et al., 2014; Shiner et al., 2013). However, these studies examined data from fiscal years 2008–2012, and therefore may not reflect more recent utilization patterns. Beginning in 2007, the VA invested heavily in increasing implementation of PE and CPT, including nationwide training rollouts and consultation. Given the length of time required for successful implementation of new practices, it is important to evaluate use of PE and CPT over time. We examined current use of PE and CPT at 1 VA medical center PTSD specialty clinic and compared this to prior rates for the same clinic. Chart reviews for all patients receiving a PTSD clinic initial evaluation between January 1, 2015, and May 31, 2015, indicated that 52% of patients began a course of PE or CPT within the 1-year follow-up period, representing a 5-fold increase from 2008 to 2012. We discuss changes in clinic structure, processes, training, and clinician support that might account for the successful implementation of PE and CPT in this clinic. We also present data on alternative referrals provided to patients not engaging in PE and CPT, and predictors of engagement in PE and CPT.

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