What is it about?

Most military veterans return from rigorous training and deployment without suffering from trauma-related psychological problems. But some return with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction. While various treatments have been effective in addressing veterans’ psychological trauma, these treatments can be lengthy, leading many veterans to drop out. Veterans may also drop out when treatment is perceived as “too clinical,” “sterile,” or delivered in settings that are uncomfortable or unfamiliar. We collaborated with a veterans’ organization to create a treatment program that differs from most others. This program takes place at a retreat center with barracks-style living and mess hall dining, surrounded by nature and wilderness. Groups of 8-15 veterans attend this program – designed in some ways to resemble military life. During this brief (four-night, five day) program, veterans learn about their emotions and participate in experiential activities that complement this learning. They also acquire cognitive-behavioral skills to cope with emotions and solve problems. We named this approach to helping veterans Brief Integrative Multimodal Group Therapy because it integrates principles and practices from the various therapies found helpful in addressing veterans’ psychological problems. Fifty graduates of the program were surveyed over an average period of one year following the program’s end. It was found that veterans’ PTSD, depression, and alcohol use disorder symptoms moderately decreased. Veterans attributed this improvement to learning about their difficult emotions, changing problematic thoughts and beliefs, making value-based decisions, and sharing stories and experiences with other veterans with similar problems and difficulties.

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Why is it important?

Veterans’ reductions in PTSD, depression, and alcohol use disorder were maintained over an average follow-up period of one year. This is particularly promising given the brief nature of this program. However, until further research is conducted on this program, it should not be considered a first-line treatment. Instead, its potential value is as complementary to existing evidence-based psychotherapies for veterans.


Dr. Liese: “It was a joy and an honor to observe and serve the veterans participating in this program. Most arrived at the rustic retreat center feeling moderately nervous and skeptical about this 5-day program. But within hours most were surprised at how much they were participating and learning. Facilitators and researchers themselves were sometimes astonished by the raw openness, vulnerability, and receptivity they witnessed as veterans enthusiastically participated in the program. Investigators were delighted to learn that the post-participation data supported what they observed in these fully engaged veterans participating in the program.” Corey Monley: "Many veterans do not get access to psychological treatments they need or drop out of treatment before they experience benefits. Brief integrative multimodal group treatments like the one described in this paper enable veterans to “sample” multiple evidence-based therapies and choose from among these the principles, tools, and practices that they find most helpful. As a researcher and facilitator working with veterans in this program, it was inspiring to see veterans design and build their own pathways to recovery while supporting one another in their most vulnerable moments."

Bruce S Liese
University of Kansas Medical Center

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Feasibility of multimodal group treatment for veterans with PTSD, depression, and high-risk drinking: A pilot study., Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, July 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/int0000309.
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