A company developing a unique e-learning, behavior changing technology platform recently won a contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs' Center for Innovation to create a program to treat veterans with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Potentia Labs, which won the contract after winning an innovation competition held by the VA to expand mental health care options for veterans, uses a different approach—positive psychology—to help patients.
"As someone who has served in the military, I'm grateful that the VA is holding innovative competitions like these to work to improve access to mental health care," said Eric Lenhardt, a U.S. Army veteran and co-founder of Potentia.
While most mental health services try to alleviate patients' negative symptoms, Potentia focuses on bolstering their positive traits, such as resilience and mindfulness, through an online platform and mobile app that are easily accessible.
"Most of the available options are aimed at addressing what's wrong in veterans' lives," said Dustin Milner, CEO and co-founder of Potentia. "Our approach is more in line with the warrior mindset, building on veterans' existing strengths to help them become the best version of themselves."
One problem with treating veterans with PTSD is that they often go to therapy once and never return.
"[Treatments] are at odds with the warrior mindset—which is how anyone entering the armed services is really trained to think," Milner told MobiHealthNews. "You don't acknowledge weakness … So when veterans come out and go to treatment, it is kind of at odds with what the therapist is trying to work on."
Potentia seeks to address this problem by boosting traits like confidence and optimism that, according to research, promote mental health. But rather than hiring a coach to do this, Potentia wants to give veterans the tools they need through its e-learning platform. The goal is to give veterans with depression and PTSD easy access to a platform that uses positive psychology, which will in turn engage veterans to use traditional treatment.
Potentia will develop, customize, and expand its technology through a mix of gaming technology, instructional design, and expertise from psychologists until July 2018, when the platform will begin an 18-month trial at a California VA center.