Christopher Frueh, clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, is researching holistic methods of mental health treatment for combat veterans.
The connection between physical, mental and emotional health problems has inspired Frueh to develop a multi-component treatment for veterans with combat post-traumatic stress disorder. These components include social skills training, such as anger management, and exposure therapy, which exposes the patient to virtual reality programs that mimic Iraq and Afghanistan combat situations.
“Instead of addressing a single factor of their physical or emotional health, it is more effective to address all of the factors simultaneously for a more cohesive treatment for veterans who experience a variety of medical and psychiatric disorders,” said Frueh.
Frueh has also been working on an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), a multi-component treatment administered over the course of three weeks instead of the standard three months. The IOP provides therapy sessions to veterans two times a day, five days a week, providing them with a more condensed and focused treatment experience.
“Essentially, we give them the same dose of therapy, but packing the sessions together instead of spacing them out works better,” he said.
According to data collected from the IOP, the program has been found to reduce the drop-out rate, enhance clinical outcomes and is highly accepted by patients, especially active-duty personnel.
“Patients have taken off from work, school, family to dedicate to their treatment,” said Frueh. “By using an intensive outpatient program approach, we treat patients faster. We have found that the percentage of patients who complete treatment is then much higher, for example 95 percent versus 55 percent.”
—A UH Hilo Stories article written by Alyssa Mathews a freshman at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo