Advancing PTSD research and practice: Reflections by Dr. Margaret McKinnon

Homewood Health Centre houses Canada’s premier inpatient PTSD treatment program that provides a full range of current, evidence-based approaches to the treatment of PTSD and trauma-related disorders. As clinician-scientists, my colleagues and I collaborate with leaders of this unique program to conduct research that improves practice and outcomes.

It is a privilege to work with Homewood’s Program for Traumatic Stress Recovery (PTSR) and its clinical leads to develop research that aims to establish a better understanding PTSD and to develop novel treatment interventions that improve outcomes and quality of life for the patients served by Homewood and other organizations.

Recently, the Homewood Research Institute hosted a workshop at the annual meeting of the Canadian Institute of Military and Veteran’s Health Research. The aim was to identify a research agenda that addresses the needs of military members, veterans, first responders and civilians affected by PTSD. Attendees told us clearly that new treatment approaches are needed to alleviate not only symptoms of PTSD but also to improve functional outcomes (e.g., return to work/service and retraining).

Progress

At HRI, we are working to accomplish these goals.  In the last year, we helped design and introduce state-of-the-art assessment processes that will assist not only in better identifying symptom profiles of PTSD but also in planning personalized care.

In addition, we are beginning to test new treatments.  Homewood Health Centre recently purchased a comprehensive suite of neuroscientific intervention tools, including neurofeedback, virtual reality and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation.  HRI-collaborating scientists are heavily involved in planning treatments based on these technologies and studies aimed at assessing and optimizing their effectiveness.

Additional initiatives will introduce and evaluate treatment aimed at improving cognitive function, including memory and attention.

This focus on assessments that lead treatments tailored to individual patient needs, combined with neuroscientifically-based treatment and more established treatments is expected to create better treatment responses for individuals with PTSD and trauma-related disorders.

The ultimate goal is to provide treatments that not only reduce symptoms, but also provide a foundation for leading a full, productive and satisfying life at home and at work.

The HRI and its unique relationship with the Homewood Health Centre ideally facilitates this “real-world research” through the creation of a living research environment that brings together clinicians, scientists and patients to develop research and practice that is continuously responsive to the needs of patients and their families.

Dr. Margaret McKinnon (PhD, C Psych) is a Homewood Senior Scientist;
Associate Co-Chair, Research and Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University; Academic Head and Psychologist, Mood Disorders Program, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton