Innovation in the Face of a New World - Couple HOPES, Online Self-Guided Therapy for Couples

What is Couple HOPES?   

Through the ongoing partnership with Canadian Institute For Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR), Couple HOPES aims to improve the lives of Veterans and military members, suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in an innovative online guided self-help intervention adapted from Cognitive-Behavioural Conjoint Therapy for PTSD. 

Led by Dr. Candice Monson from Ryerson University, this study focuses on helping participants improve their symptoms of PTSD from the comfort of their own homes, with the added comfort of having their partner go through the intervention with them. With the understanding that the effects of PTSD go beyond the individual and often affect their personal relationships, the intervention aims to also enhance relationship satisfaction.

Improving Accessibility and Reach   

When asked about why she was motivated to start this project, Dr. Monson commented on wanting to improve the accessibility and reach of mental health services for the military and Veteran community, noting particularly that those signing up for such services often ended up on waiting lists.   

“We’ll never train enough therapists to treat the number of people that need help, so how do we come up with something that is really accessible to help a greater number of people?” she says. Dr. Monson goes on to note that there are a number of barriers to delivering much-needed help to those who are suffering, with geography, stigma, and finances to name a few.   

With the intervention being available for patients to access online, individuals can gain access to the tools they need and feel empowered to help themselves. COVID-19, although difficult, has in many ways opened up people’s willingness to engage with technology in a different way, she notes. “The power of people helping themselves is impressive.”  

But why focus on couples? Dr. Monson tells us that nearly all interventions are focused on the individual, but researchers know that PTSD has reverberating effects that go beyond the individual and that people’s relationships are one of the primary things that help facilitate recovery. The question becomes, how can the researchers then harness the power of those relationships to help aid in the recovery of those individuals?   

Next Steps   

The research team is currently focused on proving that the online intervention is safe and works in a more controlled study. After that, the focus will be on understanding whether Couple HOPES can do better than other general self-directed couple Therapies that do not particularly focus on individuals with PTSD, to help improve symptoms of PTSD in an ‘active comparison’. 

You can learn more about Couple Hopes and Dr. Candice Monson’s incredible work by visiting this page.