The federal government intends to allocate $100 million to study the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. For a leading research group in Philadelphia, these funds could help answer a major question in the field.

 

The University of Pennsylvania's Dr. Edna Foa developed what's been called the gold standard in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Known as prolonged-exposure therapy, it essentially requires patients to actively engage with the trauma they've been suppressing.

It's estimated that 300,000 to 400,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD, and when Foa's methods are used to treat them, they're considered highly effective.

Still, says Foa, "We also know that most psychotherapists don't use them."

She says most behavioral health-care professionals like to stick with what they learned in school -- sometimes ignoring new scholarship no matter how effective it may be.

So when Foa and her team apply for a chunk of the $100,000 in funding from the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs, one question they'll try to answer is how to get more therapists on board with the prolonged-exposure treatment.

"If we provide them with more training and consultation supervision and help them get over their fear, their concerns," says Foa, "would they use this treatment more?"

Foa says no matter who's awarded the funds, the money will go a long way in helping to understand PTSD and TBI.

TBI is linked to sudden, yet often invisible trauma, such as that sustained by soldiers from the airshock of a roadside bomb.

Though both conditions are most often thought of as being related to military action, health professionals say they're actually widespread.

It's estimated that 7.7 million Americans have suffered from PTSD and 1.7 suffer from TBI annually.