By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2013 – As part of the Integrated Mental Health Strategy, the Defense Department’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology and the Veterans Affairs Department’s mental health informatics section have partnered to develop an interactive online educational and life-coaching program.
Moving Forward is focused on addressing stress -- specifically, recognizing when a person is stressed, identifying stressors and developing stress management skills.
To accomplish this, users navigate through a set of problem-solving exercises, Ciulla said. In addition to testimonials from former service members, the site offers quizzes to evaluate stress levels and games to practice counseling progressions.
“This gives users a way to interact with the course -- to learn how stress affects them, in particular -- and to learn about their general problem-solving style,” he said. Users then learn techniques for generating solutions when they're faced with a problem, Ciulla added.
“Problem-solving is foundational,” he said. The skills learned in addressing any one problem can be transferred to addressing a variety of problems.
The techniques on the site are based on a problem-solving therapy program that has been used successfully with service members and veterans across the country, a growing number of whom have mental health care needs, Ciulla said.
"We know that approximately 20 percent of service members returning from a combat deployment do experience adjustment problems like post-traumatic stress, depression, anger, problems in work settings [and] family and relationship issues,” Ciulla said, “and so this series of problem-solving exercises teaches the user how to literally learn how to work with some of the problems that they're confronting.”
The Moving Forward website is designed to allow users to remain anonymous, but also to be able to pick up where they left off if they take a break from training.
“We know that stigma is a prevalent issue in the military. [Service members] are concerned that if they see somebody on a face-to-face basis, it'll be seen as a sign of weakness or that they can't perform their duty, Ciulla said.
Some advantages of using the website include never having to wait in a crowded waiting room and the ability to log on from home or another safe environment, he noted.
The site is designed to stand alone -- no referral from a caregiver is needed, Ciulla said, but it is not intended to entirely replace face-to-face care if that type of care is needed.
For users who have chronic stress and chronic problems in their lives, the site can serve as a steppingstone to getting face-to-face care, he added.
Moving Forward is designed to be especially helpful for veterans, service members and their families, Ciulla said, but the site teaches skills that can be useful to anyone dealing with stress.