DCOE to Providers: No Simple Shortcuts to PTSD Treatment

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Washington – One of the greatest challenges for the Defense Centers for Excellence (DCoE) is educating providers on the complexities of PTSD, which is far more difficult to treat than routine illnesses for which patients can just pop a pill.

“One of the issues I see with PTSD is that it is a lot more complicated than I think people think,” said DCoE Director Navy Captain Paul S. Hammer, MD. “It is not like it is an infection. You have a fever, you have an infection and get an antibiotic and it is done. There are a lot of multifaceted aspects to [PTSD] that we need to address.”

PTSD may be accompanied with co-occurring conditions like depression and substance abuse as well as issues like anger, guilt and family dysfunction, Hammer explained.

Using toolkits and other methods, DCoE is working to arm health-care providers with information on the co-occurring conditions that can accompany psychological health issues. In March, DCoE released a co-occurring toolkit on mTBI and psychological health. The next toolkit to come out will deal with major depression and co-occurring disorders, Hammer said. Toolkits and other pertinent information for providers can be found at DCoE’s website at www.dcoe.health.mil.

“We put out, not just clinical practice guidelines we developed that are developed with the DoD/ VA clinical practice guidelines group, but toolkits and information to expand on those, to enhance the ability to take care of the folks with those co-occurring conditions,” he said.

Hammer also said that he thinks headway is being made in addressing the stigma issues that can prevent troops from wanting to ask for help.

“You see, senior officers and senior enlisted members are much more willing to speak out and talk about this,” he said. “I have been in the Navy almost 30 years and have spent almost one-third of that time in the Marine Corps, and I can’t imagine a time when I first came in when I would hear a sergeant major talk about PTSD and PTS, and now it is routine.”

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