Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

VA Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

SDR 22-185 – HSR Study

SDR 22-185
A Hybrid Effectiveness-Implementation Trial of Treatments for Veterans with PTSD at Elevated Acute Risk for Suicide
Melanie S Harned, PhD
VA Puget Sound Health Care System Seattle Division, Seattle, WA
Seattle, WA
Funding Period: September 2023 - August 2027


Background: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a significant risk factor for suicide among Veterans. Evidence-based psychotherapies (EBPs) for PTSD reduce suicide risk, but Veterans at elevated acute risk for suicide, such as those who have engaged in self-directed violence (SDV), rarely receive these treatments. This is largely due to the historical exclusion of high-risk individuals from PTSD treatment trials, which has resulted in a lack of evidence-based guidance about indicated treatments for this population. Without such guidance, clinicians are often reluctant to use EBPs for PTSD with suicidal individuals. A treatment that combines Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a suicide-focused EBP, with the DBT Prolonged Exposure (DBT PE) protocol for PTSD has been developed for this high-risk population and shows promise in reducing both SDV and PTSD while being feasible, acceptable, and safe to deliver. However, a large-scale randomized controlled trial (RCT) is needed. This study will compare the effectiveness of DBT + DBT PE to the current VHA gold standard of care for this population, Prolonged Exposure therapy augmented with suicide risk management (PE + SRM), while also examining the potential for implementation of both interventions in VHA. Significance: There is a critical gap in knowledge about how to treat PTSD among individuals at high risk for suicidal behavior. As a result, VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guidelines do not specify indicated treatment strategies for this population. Experts have recommended two approaches to facilitate the safe and effective use of EBPs for PTSD with individuals at elevated acute suicide risk, including combining these treatments with suicide-focused EBPs or augmenting them with suicide risk management strategies. This project will help to fill this critical gap by rigorously evaluating these two approaches among Veterans with SDV. The results will provide important information to inform guidelines about indicated treatments for this high-risk population. Innovativeness: This will be the first large-scale RCT to evaluate treatments for PTSD among Veterans who have engaged in SDV, an HSR&D high priority group. The DBT + DBT PE intervention is the first treatment designed to address both SDV and PTSD, and results will indicate if this novel treatment improves outcomes compared to the current VHA gold standard of care. To facilitate more rapid implementation of these findings into clinical practice, implementation barriers and facilitators for both treatments will also be evaluated. Specific Aims: This study will randomize 200 Veterans with PTSD, recent and repeated SDV, current suicidal ideation, and emotion dysregulation to DBT + DBT PE (intervention) or PE + SRM (control). Aim 1 will test the hypothesis that DBT + DBT PE will be superior to PE + SRM in improving clinical outcomes and engagement in trauma-focused treatment. Exploratory analyses will examine Veteran characteristics that may predict better engagement and outcomes in DBT + DBT PE versus PE + SRM. Aim 2 will examine barriers and facilitators to implementation of both treatments. Methods: This is a multi-site hybrid type 1 effectiveness-implementation trial. Veterans will be treated in outpatient settings at three VA sites and assessed at 5 points over 18 months. A mixed-methods approach will be used to evaluate barriers and facilitators to implementation, including conducting interviews with 45 key stakeholders (Veterans, providers, and leadership). Primary Outcomes/Endpoints: Primary outcomes will be reductions in SDV episodes at 18-month follow-up and reductions in PTSD severity at post-treatment. Implementation/Next Steps: This project will provide much-needed information about how to safely and effectively treat PTSD among Veterans at elevated acute risk for suicide. If one or both treatments are found effective, Aim 2 will provide vital information about how to maximize future implementation success. Future implementation activities would be coordinated with our national operational partners.

External Links for this Project

NIH Reporter

Grant Number: I01HX003676-01

Dimensions for VA

Dimensions for VA is a web-based tool available to VA staff that enables detailed searches of published research and research projects.

Learn more about Dimensions for VA.

VA staff not currently on the VA network can access Dimensions by registering for an account using their VA email address.
    Search Dimensions for this project


None at this time.

DRA: Mental, Cognitive and Behavioral Disorders
DRE: Treatment - Efficacy/Effectiveness Clinical Trial, Treatment - Implementation, TRL - Applied/Translational
Keywords: PTSD, Suicide
MeSH Terms: None at this time.

Questions about the HSR website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.