Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security
In San Diego, California, a new treatment of therapy involves videoconferencing to treat Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Journalist Tony Perry of the LA Times calls this “Skype Therapy.”
Army Veteran Moreno Garcia says: “Being in your own living room for sessions, that’s comfortable.” This makes sense, given that many veterans no longer have to go to face-to-face sessions and leave what is familiar and safe. They are likely to be more open as well. All information and communication is also secure, password protected and encrypted for further reassurance of privacy.
Psychologist Dr. Kathryn Williams explains that “after one or two sessions, you forget about the camera.” Many patients need longer term care as well and this new therapy approach is not only more comfortable but more convenient. PTSD is an ongoing and psychological condition.
Aside from leading patients away from negative thoughts and beliefs, there is a need to bring them back safely into society. “You can go whole weeks, and then something happens and your brain is back in the war, with the hyper-vigilance and fight-or-flight,” Moreno Garcia says. “You need help managing moods and feelings. That’s where Dr. Williams helps.”
According to the VA:
“Researchers at the VA San Diego Healthcare System who compared conventional in-person psychotherapy to therapy delivered through videoconferencing found that the video method worked just as well for treating posttraumatic stress disorder in Veterans.”
Results of the program approach have been positive on the whole but restricted to California.
“It’s the future,” reveals Dr. Nilesh Shah, the director of telemedicine for the VA San Diego. States like Oregon, Nevada and Alaska are already picking up on it too and it will not be long before it is widespread.
Dr. Steven Thorp adds:
“These new ways of delivering therapy are also important for Veterans with PTSD who do not feel comfortable driving, or who may feel uncomfortable in hospitals or other crowded places.”
It is a blessing for people that do not live close to a VA clinic or hospital as well. On the upside, there are increased comfort and safety levels of the patient but on the downside there is a lack of human presence and direct human interaction. Importantly, face-to-face therapy is not being replaced, but supplemented. There are costs and benefits to videoconferencing.