PTSD there's an app for that

Monday - 11/7/2011, 11:54am EST

Dr. Sonja Batten, deputy chief consultant for specialty mental health, VA

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By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

A smartphone application released by the Defense and Veterans Affairs Departments in the spring leverages the power of mobile technology to help veterans better manage post-traumatic stress disorder.

PTSD Coach, a 508-compliant free app, was created for service members, veterans and, even, civilians with PTSD or PTSD-like symptoms, said Dr. Sonja Batten, VA's deputy chief consultant for specialty mental health, in an interview on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris.

It provides users with stress-management tips and tools — but with a mobile twist. For example, users can upload special photos or their favorite soothing music. When they're stressed, the app provides a convenient place to turn for de-stressing.

The app is not a replacement for standard face-to-face care, Batten acknowledged. "But it provides tools that can be used by the individual either alone or in collaboration with a treatment provider, either during or before sessions," she added.

The app was launched in April and, so far, has seen about 31, 500 downloads, Batten said. The app was developed by VA's National Center for PTSD over about 15 months, she said.

Much of the effort in developing the app was spent on researching the content — not necessarily software development, Batten said. "With the PTSD coach, we wanted to make sure that the information would be, first of all, relevant and useful to veterans and what they would be looking for from such an app, but also that it would be clinically appropriate, and that what we would be providing would be helpful to individuals to get through those difficult moments," she explained.

Batten said the app — which has a five-star rating in the iTunes app store — has received positive, though mostly informal feedback from users. One of the possible benefits of the app, though, is that it can be downloaded anonymously, Batten said.

She said the app could be a "first step" for people who still sense a stigma attached to PTSD.

The Federal Communications Commission recently awarded the "PTSD Coach" app its Advancements in Accessibility Award. The FCC award "is really a validation for us," she said.