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New online PTSD intervention to support couples

May 31, 2021
By Maz Atta
Candice Monson is the lab director for the study based on Couple HOPES, a new online self-help program to support relationships and improve PTSD.

May 31, 2021 – A research team at the department of psychology at Ryerson University has developed a free intervention for military members, veterans, first responders, and healthcare workers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and their loved ones called Couple HOPES. Couple HOPES is an online, guided, self-help intervention for couples to improve PTSD and enhance relationship functioning at the same time.

Candace Monson, lab director of the study, said the team is assessing the program’s safety, rating, and whether its helping people with PTSD.

Monson said the study results will be defined by data collected from couples who used the program. She said the data is based on responses gathered before and after taking the program that compare their initial input and final progress.

“We’re also looking at whether you completed the intervention or not. How much does it improve your PTSD? How much does it improve your relationship, your anger, and your hostility?”

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The online program includes seven interactive modules that are 20 to 30 minutes each. These modules educate couples about skills used to cope with PTSD and support their partner throughout their journey.

The program also includes four 20-minute coaching sessions that refine the skills couples learned throughout the intervention. Monson said participants are “much more likely” to achieve their goals when interventions have a coach.

Before and after the program, couples are required to answer screening questions about their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours.  Monson said one of the key aspects of the program is educating them to stop preventing their partner from facing their triggers. She said this avoidant behaviour only prolongs the healing process.

“We understand that you’re doing it well-meaningly, but it’s actually making your loved one sick. We’re systematically trying to get the person with PTSD to be engaging and approaching the things that they are avoiding because of the disorder.”

The lab director said their marketing campaign is targeting partners of people with PTSD. She said she understands how difficult it can be for a partner to maintain a relationship with someone who struggles with PTSD.

“It’s the partners who are the gateway to getting people into the intervention. A lot of people with PTSD want to avoid it.”

To be eligible, at least one partner must be a service member, such as a first responder, veteran, or a healthcare worker. The couple must both be willing to participate in all aspects of the Couple HOPES program.

The program is currently being offered free to eligible couples. Each couple is granted eight weeks to complete the program.