Dr. Sheila Rauch

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) heavily impacts the health and well-being of millions of Veterans and their families and imposes huge costs on the VHA. Dr. Sheila Rauch is a clinical psychologist at the Atlanta VA who has spent her career working on this problem. As the Director of Mental Health Research at the Atlanta VA, Dr. Rauch is making progress to improve PTSD treatment for veterans.

Even modest reductions in PTSD severity have been related to greatly increased function and quality of life. Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy is an effective, first-line treatment for PTSD but most Veterans are not able to access PE or other PTSD treatments. Of those who do access it, many do not complete treatment. One obstacle to access is that these treatments are provided only in specialty mental health clinics that require referrals or other intake processes that delay care. Dr. Rauch and others have developed and implemented screening for PTSD in primary care (PC), but effective PC based PTSD psychotherapeutic interventions remain to be established. So Dr. Rauch and her colleagues developed Prolonged Exposure for Primary Care (PE-PC) as the first primary care specific intervention for PTSD. Dr. Rauch’s work shows that PE-PC reduces PTSD better than usual treatments in VA primary care. Dr. Rauch is now leading the Improving Function through PrimAry Care Treatment of PTSD (IMPACT) study. This study explores a promising brief therapy for PTSD in VHA Primary Care (PE-PC) and its impact on function. This intervention provides quick and easy access to treatment for those suffering with PTSD and does not require referral to specialty mental health services.

These and ongoing studies by Dr. Rauch and her colleagues will determine if PE-PC reduces PTSD symptoms and if this therapy helps Veterans function more effectively. If PE-PC improves Veterans access to effective PTSD therapies and enhances the effectiveness of PTSD interventions it will provide a more rapid and effective option in primary care for patients who do not want medication or who do not fully respond to medication.

Recent publications related to this research:
Rauch SAM, Wilson CK, Jungerman J, Bollini A, Eilender P. Implementation of Prolonged Exposure for PTSD: Pilot Program of PE for Primary Care in VA. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice. 2020.