Telehealth therapy grows among veterans

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center is one of the leaders in today's mental health research for veterans.

On Tuesday, the VA research teams held an information session inside the hospital auditorium. May 13 -17 is National VA research week. Charleston's VA center made their session about mental health awareness, specifically post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

"There are all sort of innovations happening in Charleston and nowhere else in the country," PTSD program director Ron Acierno said.

One of the advances the research team showcased was Telehealth therapy. This is a the use of videoconferencing with programs like Skype where patients can log on from anywhere for a session.

"There's no need for a person to drive all the way down to the VA if we can use the computer that they already have at their desk and have a conversation with them," he said.

While the concept is several years old, the application it still catching on. There are just as many PTSD patients using this method as the in-person therapy said Acierno.

55 year old army veteran Darrell Beckley who suffers from PTSD, stopped by the information booth Tuesday.

"It takes a lot of patience and brainwashing yourself. Depression is always following you around," he said.

Rather than let it stop him in his tracks Beckley says he always looking for treatment options. "The job is never done," he said.

Acierno said they are currently looking to work on cross time zone providers to expand the teleconferencing opportunities for people in Charleston after hours.

The VA hospital is getting a new building specifically for mental health and PTSD research. The project is estimated to be completed by the end of 2013.