A Pilot Trial of Online Training for Family Well-Being and Veteran Treatment Initiation for PTSD

Christopher R. Erbes, Eric Kuhn, Melissa A. Polusny, Josef I. Ruzek, Michele Spoont, Laura A. Meis, Elizabeth Gifford, Kenneth R. Weingardt, Emily Hagel Campbell, Heather Oleson, Brent C. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


INTRODUCTION: Family members are important supports for veterans with Posttrauamtic Stress Disroder (PTSD), but they often struggle with their own distress and challenges. The Veterans Affairs-Community Reinforcement and Family Training (VA-CRAFT) website was designed to teach family members of veterans with PTSD effective ways to interact with their veterans to encourage initiation of mental health services as well as to care for themselves and improve their relationships. This article presents a pilot investigation of VA-CRAFT.

MATERIALS AND METHOD: Spouse/partners of veterans who had screened positive for PTSD but were not in mental health treatment were randomized to either use the VA-CRAFT website (n = 22) or to a waitlist control condition (n = 19) for 3 months. Veteran mental health service initiation was assessed posttreatment. Spouse/partner distress, caregiver burden, quality of life, and relationship quality were assessed pre and posttreatment. The study was approved by the Minneapolis VA Health Care System Institutional Review Board (IRB).

RESULTS: Differences between groups on veteran treatment initiation were small (Phi = 0.17) and not statistically significant. VA-CRAFT participants reported large and statistically significantly greater decreases in overall caregiver burden (η2 = 0.10) and objective caregiver burden (η2 = 0.14) than control participants. Effects were larger for those with greater initial distress. Effects sizes for other partner outcomes were negligible (η2 = 0.01) to medium (η2 = 0.09) and not statistically significant. Postintervention interviews suggested that only 33% of the VA-CRAFT participants talked with their veterans about starting treatment for PTSD during the trial.

CONCLUSION: Results from this pilot trial suggest that VA-CRAFT holds initial promise in reducing caregiver burden and as such it could be a useful resource for family members of veterans with PTSD. However, VA-CRAFT does not enhance veteran treatment initiation. It may benefit from enhancements to increase effectiveness and caregiver engagement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-408
Number of pages8
JournalMilitary medicine
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Mar 2 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Association of Military Surgeons of the United States 2019. All rights reserved.


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