Effectively E-training Behavioral Health Professionals to Meet the Needs of Veterans and their Families

Author Information
Author(s): 
Alice Kim, Shawna Campbell, Kelly Turner, Eileen Kohan
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
University of Southern California, Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (CIR)
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
USC Department of Continuing Education
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

The USC Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (CIR) created an online continuing education (CE) series on military behavioral health, built in partnership with the USC Department of Continuing Education and the New York Times Knowledge Network. Funded by a grant from the Department of Defense, the goal of this CE series is to rapidly increase the number of civilian behavioral health providers who have the competence to effectively work with military-impacted clients. A randomized clinical trial will be conducted in the Fall of 2012 to evaluate the effectiveness of this continuing education series in improving learners’ military-related knowledge, clinical skill development, and sense of competence in working with servicemembers, veterans, and military-impacted families.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

Currently, there are three courses available in the series: *Military Culture; Clinical Practice with Servicemembers, Veterans and Military Families; and Motivational Interviewing.* The content for the courses is rooted in coursework from the USC School of Social Work’s graduate degree program in military social work. The courses are designed specifically for professional behavioral healthcare providers who are interested in working with military-impacted clients. This includes social workers, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, nurses, mental health clinicians, counselors, etc. While much of the content is presented from a behavioral health perspective, the courses are also appropriate for other civilian professionals who are interested in enhancing their effectiveness in working with military populations. Examples of other appropriate audience members are school administrators, teachers, first responders, employers, public administrators, medical personnel, and other service providers. The courses, which are hosted on the Epsilen learning platform, are asynchronous, and each course takes approximately 6 hours to complete. Each course also features an ongoing discussion forum, in which students can discuss topics with instructors and other students. Periodically, there are guest forums, which feature subject matter experts for a certain interval of time. For example, the Military Culture course featured James Dao, a national correspondent for The New York Times covering military and veterans affairs. The courses are also enriched with interactive exercises, videos, and media from the NYTimes archive. In addition, live events that are hosted by CIR (e.g., monthly Brown Bag seminars) are streamed for course students, with a simultaneous Q & A hosted on CIR’s Facebook page. Students of the courses complete a pre- and post-course knowledge assessment, as well as satisfaction survey at the end of each course. Students who are licensed social workers or marriage and family therapists can earn 6 CEU credits for each course completed. CIR has also made a commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). As part of this commitment, CIR provides a number of course slots to qualified providers who wish to take the courses for free.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

This course series launched in December 2011 with the Military Culture course. The following courses were launched at the end of May 2012. Since the initial launch, we have trained over 60 students, and we continue to gain students every day from a wide variety of backgrounds and locations. Among our students, we have trained a group of employees from a company focused on improving veteran health and career services, a group of therapists working on a telehealth platform, and individual students as far away as Norway and Japan. In looking at the knowledge pre- and post-test scores, students have scored consistently higher in their post-test scores. Results from the end of course evaluations show a high level of satisfaction with the courses. Sample quotes from students include: (I took this course) because I have not served in the military but I do work with veterans as part of my job. I took this course to enhance my ability to understand my clients' military background and its effect on their post-military lives. Video examples were fantastic and on point. I would have loved seeing more This was a very informative course to learn about military culture. (The course content was) easy to follow; well organized.

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

This course series specifically addresses the pillars of learning effectiveness and access. As part of the DoD grant that funds the development of this course series, CIR will be conducting a randomized clinical trial to evaluate whether the courses lead to changes course participants (i.e., behavioral health providers) military-related knowledge, clinical skill development, and sense of competence in working with servicemembers, veterans, and military-impacted families. In order to do so, CIR will not only assessing the therapist learners, but will also then follow up with military-related clients of these therapists, and their level of engagement with these providers. In regards to access, this course series provides crucial training to behavioral health providers, regardless of their location. We know servicemembers are returning in ever-increasing numbers from deployment and reintegrating back into their communities; and many of these communities are rural, or lack access to adequate behavioral health services. These courses provide immediate access to current, just-in-time training in evidence-based practices, as well as connection to a greater mental health community of providers. In regards to access, this course series provides crucial training to behavioral health providers, regardless of their location. We know servicemembers are returning in ever-increasing numbers from deployment and reintegrating back into their communities; and many of these communities are rural, or lack access to adequate behavioral health services. These courses provide immediate access to current, just-in-time training in evidence-based practices, as well as connection to a greater mental health community of providers.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

The only equipment necessary for the students is a computer with internet access. On the development side, we use content experts, an instructional designer, a technical designer, and first hand video and audio production to develop our courses.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

The development costs for each course ranges from $5,000 - $20,000.

References, supporting documents: 

To learn more about CIR's continuing education program, go to: http://cir.usc.edu/cir's-continuing-education-program

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Alice Kim
Email this contact: 
alicekki@usc.edu