The National Center for PTSD is an integral and valued component of VA's Mental Health Services within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Center was created in 1989. The National Center for PTSD has six main goals and objectives:
The National Center for PTSD's highest priority is supporting VA clinicians and Veterans through the development of evidence-based treatments for PTSD and the dissemination of best-practices through the VA system. Developing effective PTSD treatments has a direct effect on patient care. The Center has been, and remains, at the forefront of PTSD treatment development.
The National Center carried out the two largest PTSD psychotherapy studies ever conducted, VA Cooperative Studies #420 and #494. VA Cooperative Study #504, a large, multisite psychopharmacological clinical trial, is currently underway.
Assessment enhances diagnostic precision and provides clinicians with a method to monitor the outcomes of patients they are treating. The National Center has created the most widely used diagnostic instruments in the field of PTSD. See our Assessment section for details.
These instruments are used in individual clinical cases, large-scale research studies, and have potential utility in standardized protocols for PTSD compensation and pension evaluations.
The key to the development of better treatment is an informed understanding of the etiology, pathophysiology, and psychology of PTSD. The National Center's entire basic research portfolio is dedicated to this objective. As a classic example, the Center was first to discover that reduced hippocampal volume, a structural brain abnormality, was associated with PTSD.
Other major research projects have addressed:
The National Center is currently increasing their focus on research on PTSD and traumatic brain injury, substance abuse, and aging. The Center has, on occasion, been asked to implement research that has policy implications such as:
Translating knowledge into practice is the purpose of the Center's education activities. The foremost concern of the Center is to get the most up-to-date, evidence-based information on causes, assessment, and treatment of traumatic stress disorders into the hands of practitioners who are working with America's Veterans.
To get the word out, the National Center has been quick to capitalize on new communication technologies as they become available. The Center's award winning website has become the first line of dissemination for many of our products and served over 1 million users in the past fiscal year. In addition, thousands of other clinicians receive education from the Center through on- and off-site trainings around the country.
Major ongoing educational initiatives include:
There are many ongoing collaborative activities between the National Center for PTSD and different DoD components. We actively collaborate with Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force facilities and National Guard forces, and have a close working relationship with the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences. These efforts are geared to:
In collaboration with the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the National Center developed the Iraq War Clinician Guide. The Guide was posted on our website and downloaded thousands of times.
The National Center for PTSD has a long history of helping VA respond in times of national emergency. This began following the 1989 Loma Prieta, CA earthquake that occurred six weeks after the Center was established. Early efforts included a two-day disaster training for VAMC and Vet Center staff. Recent efforts have focused on development and implementation of evidence-informed practices after disaster. Work with other federal partners helped us to quickly respond to the needs of VA after hurricane Katrina by:
Center staff are currently working with VA's Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards on the addition of a mental health component to the standard operating procedures in the Emergency Management Program Guidebook.
As experts in the field of PTSD, Center staff frequently consult with VA leadership on issues relevant to traumatic stress and PTSD. These consultations happen through intensive, long-lasting relationships with VA leadership and informal one-to-one conversations. One of the mechanisms for on-going consultation is through high-level representation on VA committees. Other consultation on clinical, research, or education is periodically provided to NIH, SAMHSA, DoD, CDC and the Institute of Medicine.