Systematic review of lessons learned from delivering tele-therapy to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder

J Telemed Telecare. 2018 Oct;24(9):575-585. doi: 10.1177/1357633X17730443. Epub 2017 Sep 29.


Introduction Despite increases in the number of ex-service personnel seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), there remain a number of barriers to help-seeking which prevents many veterans from accessing psychological therapies. Tele-therapy provides one potential method of increasing the number of veterans accessing support. This review aimed to systematically review the literature in order to summarise what lessons have been learned so far from providing trauma-focused tele-therapies to veterans with PTSD. Methods A systematic literature review was conducted from which 41 papers were reviewed. Studies were included if they involved the use of trauma-focused therapies carried out using tele-therapy technologies. Only studies using tele-therapy interventions via video or telephone with populations of ex-military personnel with PTSD were included. Results In the majority of cases tele-therapy was found to be as effective in reducing PTSD symptoms as in-person interventions. Similarly, there were few differences in most process outcomes such as dropout rates, with tele-therapy helping to increase uptake in some cases. Veterans using tele-therapy reported high levels of acceptability and satisfaction. Some challenges were reported in terms of therapeutic alliance, with some studies suggesting that veterans felt less comfortable in using tele-therapy. Several studies suggested it was harder for clinicians to read non-verbal communication in tele-therapy, but this did not affect their ability to build rapport. Technological issues were encountered, but these were not found to impede therapy processes or outcomes. Discussion Tele-therapy provides a viable alternative to in-person therapies and has the potential to increase access to therapy for veterans. Tele-therapy should continue to be evaluated and scrutinised in order to establish the most effective methods of delivery.

Keywords: PTSD; Tele-therapy; telemedicine; veterans.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Telemedicine / organization & administration*
  • Veterans / psychology*