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Evidence based treatments

Minneapolis VA Health Care System places a strong emphasis on treatments that have been scientifically studied and proven to be effective.

We now have effective treatments for a range of mental health conditions that, not long ago, were considered untreatable. Offering the best treatments possible is consistent with VA’s mission to provide the best care to our Veterans.

Therapies that are repeatedly shown in controlled research to be effective for a particular condition or conditions are referred to as “evidence-based”. We offer the following evidence based therapies.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Cognitive processing therapy

  • 13 weeks of individual and group sessions or individual alone
  • Focuses on “stuck points,” or thoughts that are getting in the way of your life
  • Helps process traumatic events to reduce trauma-related symptoms (ex., anxiety, easily startled, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, avoidance) and depression (Chard, 2005)

Prolonged exposure therapy

  • 12-16 individual sessions
  • Focuses on confronting avoidance in life and also of the traumatic memories
  • Helps process traumatic events to reduce trauma-related symptoms (ex., anxiety, easily startled, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, avoidance) and depression (Foa, Hembree, Cahill, Rauch, Riggs, Feeny, & Yadin, 2005) 


Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT-D)

  • 12-16 individual sessions
  • Focuses on confronting avoidance in life and movement towards valued activities
  • Helps with becoming active in life to reduce symptoms of depression (Hayes, Luoma, & Bond, 2006)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT-D)

  • 12-16 individual sessions
  • Focuses on exploring relationships between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors
  • Helps to learn new patterns of thinking and develop positive behaviors to reduce symptoms of depression (DeRubeis & Crits-Christoph, 1998)

Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT)

  • 12-16 individual sessions
  • Targets interpersonal issues, which help create and maintain distress
  • Explores areas such as delayed/incomplete grief, role transitions, role disputes or interpersonal deficit.
  • Helps decrease depression symptoms, improve interpersonal functioning, and increase social support.

Serious mental illness (ex., bipolar disorder, schizophrenia)

Social skills training (SST)

  • Group sessions 2 times a week for 6-12 weeks
  • Teaches social skills of basic conversation, assertiveness, conflict management, friendship and dating, health maintenance, work, and coping for drug and alcohol use
  • Helps with becoming socially active and relating to others in life, as well as reducing hospitalizations (Kurtz & Mueser, 2008)

Behavioral family therapy (BFT)

  • Vet and family member/supporter attend sessions with therapist for about 9 months
  • Includes education about the illness, treatment options, and safety planning; training in communication and problem solving skills; and education and/or referrals for other, co-occurring illness-related concerns.

Multi-family group treatment (MFGT)

  • Group sessions 2 times a month for 1 or more years
  • Provides ongoing education and support to the family system.
  • Focus on problem solving around current illness-related concerns, communication, and coping skills.
  • Appropriate for veterans diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, bipolar disorder, or recurrent depression with psychotic features and a family member/supporter.

Borderline personality disorder

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)

  • 6-12 months of weekly individual and group sessions and 24/7 phone coaching as needed
  • Teaches skills of mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness
  • Helps with managing stress, strong emotions, and interacting with others. Has been found to significantly reduce suicidal ideation, anger, depressive symptoms, and hopelessness (Koons et al., 2001)


Motivational interviewing (MI)

  • 1-4 individual sessions
  • Focuses on establishing a strong therapeutic alliance with the client and directing the client to verbalize “change talk” and “commitment language” associated with making change
  • Helps the client address his/her ambivalence about making a change by directing him/her to verbalize the costs of not changing and, more importantly, verbalizing the benefits to changing (Miller & Rollnick, 2009)

Motivational enhancement therapy (MET)

See MI, above. This type of therapy incorporates MI techniques with objective and personal feedback or evaluation data (e.g., liver enzymes). This assessment information is used to encourage change talk. Typically 1-2 individual sessions.

Relationship and family distress

Integrated behavioral couples therapy  (IBCT)

  • Weekly couple therapy sessions
  • Focus is on strategies for promoting acceptance in couples to reduce marital distress and improve relationship satisfaction.
  • Targets maladaptive interaction patterns that create distress.

Family consultation

  • 1-2 consultation sessions with Veteran, family member/supporter, and therapist
  • For Veterans diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD, or another anxiety disorder
  • Includes information, treatment recommendations, and referrals.
  • Appropriate when individuals would like more information about family services, would like assistance with a circumscribed concern (end of life planning, significant changes in treatment or lifestyle, a new person is entering the treatment team, change in role, etc.), or would like education about the mental health condition.

Support and family education (SAFE)

  • Educational workshops 2 times per month, 18 topics
  • For supporters/family members of individuals diagnosed with mental health conditions
  • Workshop topics focus on education about mental health conditions, self care, and adaptive responses to the illness.

Behavioral health

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I)

  • 6 weekly individual sessions
  • Targets sleep-related thoughts and behaviors
  • CBT-I has been shown to be effective in treating insomnia across many patient populations, including those with comorbid chronic pain conditions, cancer, mild traumatic brain injury, depression, and PTSD.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic pain (CBT-CP)

  • 11 individual sessions
  • CBT-CP encourages veterans to adopt an active, problem-solving approach to cope with many challenges associated with chronic pain.
  • Central components include improving physical functioning to enhance engagement with rewarding activities, relaxation training, teaching methods to cope with negative thoughts that increase pain and dysfunction, and improving sleep.

Problem solving training (PST)

  • 4 group sessions
  • Called “Moving Forward” at the VA
  • Helps people set goals and solve problems

Substance use disorders

Contingency management (CM)

  • For veterans with stimulant use disorders
  • 2 appointments per week for 12 weeks
  • Participate in urine drug screens—negative drug screens earn prizes

Connect with a care coordinator

Phone calls and walk-ins welcome:

Mental Health Intake
Room 1P-170
One Veterans Drive
Minneapolis, MN 55417

Map of Minneapolis campus
Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT