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IIR 17-178 – HSR Study

IIR 17-178
Shared Contributions to Outcomes and Retention in EBPs for PTSD (SCORE PTSD)
Nina A. Sayer, PhD
Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Minneapolis, MN
Minneapolis, MN
Funding Period: August 2018 - March 2022
VHA has committed considerable resources to ensuring that all veterans with PTSD have access to Evidence-Based Psychotherapies (EBPs) for PTSD. These efforts have focused primarily on two EBPs for PTSD - Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and Prolonged Exposure (PE). Over the past decade approximately 10,000 VHA clinicians have received VHA competency based training in CPT or PE. Therapists providing CPT and PE are required to use templated CPT and PE chart notes for session documentation, providing detailed information on the prescribed elements of CPT and PE delivered in each session. Prior research on CPT and PE has focused primarily on treatment outcomes, uptake among providers and reasons for drop-out among patients. Understudied are systematic differences between therapists in their effectiveness, indicators of the quality of CPT and PE delivery, and the work conditions conducive to positive outcomes. By addressing these evidence-gaps, we will identify modifiable factors affecting CPT and PE delivery that we can target for intervention and thereby improve treatment retention and clinical outcomes among Veterans with PTSD.

Specific aims are to: (a) Examine systematic differences between therapists in CPT and PE outcomes, and whether certain therapists are more effective with vulnerable patient subgroups, and (b) Determine whether the therapeutic relationship and therapist adherence predict CPT and PE outcomes and whether these indicators of therapy quality explain systematic differences between therapists in patient outcomes. Exploratory aims are to: (a) Determine whether the intensity and consistency of time between sessions contribute to patient outcomes and at least partially account for systematic differences between therapists in patient outcomes; (b) Examine whether therapist caseload, clinic setting and resources for therapy delivery in therapists' work environment contribute to patient outcomes and at least partially account for systematic differences between therapists in patient outcomes; and (c) Elucidate quantitative findings on therapist effects, therapy quality and aspects of therapist work context associated with patient outcomes through qualitative interviews.

This explanatory sequential mixed-method study will enroll 250 therapists who deliver CPT or PE to between 2,000 and 3,000 patients with PTSD. Therapists will be enrolled if they use the chart note templates VHA requires for documentation of CPT and PE and treat at least three patients with CPT or PE over one year. Patients of these therapists will be included if they have a diagnosis of PTSD and receive at least two sessions of CPT or PE. After enrollment, therapists will complete a brief online CPT and PE template refresher tutorial to ensure high quality CPT and PE documentation and a survey to assess training history and resources for EBPs in their work environment. Patient retention in treatment and clinical improvement in PTSD are the primary outcomes. To partition the total variance in patient outcomes between patient and therapist levels, we will use multilevel modeling of therapist and patient data from VHA administrative datasets and chart notes, supplemented with survey data. Qualitative interviews with a purposive sample of 32 therapists after quantitative data collection will contextualize, explain and illustrate quantitative findings.


This research will inform provider- and system-level interventions to optimize the effectiveness of evidence-based psychotherapies (EBPs) for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in routine clinical practice.

External Links for this Project

NIH Reporter

Grant Number: I01HX002599-01

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Journal Articles

  1. Wiltsey Stirman S, La Bash H, Nelson D, Orazem R, Klein A, Sayer NA. Assessment of modifications to evidence-based psychotherapies using administrative and chart note data from the US department of veterans affairs health care system. Frontiers in public health. 2022 Nov 15; 10:984505. [view]
  2. Sayer NA, Kaplan A, Nelson DB, Wiltsey Stirman S, Rosen CS. Clinician Burnout and Effectiveness of Guideline-Recommended Psychotherapies. JAMA Network Open. 2024 Apr 1; 7(4):e246858. [view]
  3. Rosen CS, Kaplan AN, Nelson DB, La Bash H, Chard KM, Eftekhari A, Kehle-Forbes S, Wiltsey Stirman S, Sayer NA. Implementation context and burnout among Department of Veterans Affairs psychotherapists prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of affective disorders. 2023 Jan 1; 320:517-524. [view]
  4. Sayer NA, Wiltsey-Stirman S, Rosen CS, Bernardy NC, Spoont MR, Kehle-Forbes SM, Eftekhari A, Chard KM, Nelson DB. Investigation of Therapist Effects on Patient Engagement in Evidence-Based Psychotherapies for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in the Veterans Health Administration. Journal of traumatic stress. 2022 Feb 1; 35(1):66-77. [view]
  5. Miller CJ, Barnett ML, Baumann AA, Gutner CA, Wiltsey-Stirman S. The FRAME-IS: a framework for documenting modifications to implementation strategies in healthcare. Implementation science : IS. 2021 Apr 7; 16(1):36. [view]
  6. Sayer NA, Wiltsey Stirman S, Rosen CS, Kehle-Forbes S, Spoont MR, Eftekhari A, Chard KM, Kaplan A, Nelson DB. The role of therapy delivery and clinic organizational factors in explaining therapist effects for trauma-focused psychotherapies in the Veterans Health Administration. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology. 2023 Nov 1; 91(11):665-679. [view]

DRA: Mental, Cognitive and Behavioral Disorders
DRE: Treatment - Observational
Keywords: PTSD
MeSH Terms: none

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