Rates and Reasons for Veteran Mental Health Service Utilization Following Completion of Evidence-Based Trauma-Focused Treatment for PTSD

Allison L. Baier, Sean Nugent, David M. Horton, Hope Salameh, Shannon M. Kehle-Forbes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the effectiveness of prolonged exposure (PE) and cognitive processing therapy (CPT) for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in reducing symptoms of PTSD and co-occurring symptoms, emerging research suggests continued mental health service utilization (MHSU) following the completion of these interventions. Reasons for continued MHSU remain unknown despite its relevance to PE/CPT outcomes and implementation. The present study employed a mixed methods approach to explore rates and reasons for VA MHSU post PE/CPT. A national sample of 5, 634 U.S. veterans who completed either PE or CPT were identified to quantitatively determine the frequency, type, and location of MHSU in the 12 months following PE/CPT completion. A random subsample of 60 veterans completed semistructured qualitative interviews to explore reasons for MHSU post PE/CPT. Findings suggest high MHSU; 98.4% of veterans attended at least one mental health appointment in the year following completion of PE/CPT, with an average attending 27.64 appointments in the year following treatment completion. Qualitatively, veterans, particularly those with low-to-moderate residual symptoms, described a preference for additional treatment to continue practicing and applying skills learned in treatment. Veterans expressed low self-efficacy to maintain treatment gains without support and accountability from their therapists and viewed ongoing treatment as a safety net until they felt more confident in their skills and stability of gains. Veterans with high residual symptoms indicated needing additional PTSD-specific treatment or treatment for a co-occurring condition. Notably, some veterans reported no additional treatment needs, despite continued engagement in care. Evidence-based strategies for facilitating self-efficacy and ongoing application of PE/CPT principles posttreatment are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychological Services
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© (2023), (American Psychological Association). All rights reserved.


  • cognitive processing therapy
  • mental health service utilization
  • posttraumatic stress disorder
  • prolonged exposure
  • trauma-focused therapy

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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