Wyoming Trauma Telehealth Treatment Clinic
- Need: To provide psychotherapy to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
- Intervention: University of Wyoming psychology doctoral students provide psychotherapy via videoconferencing to crisis center clients in two rural locations.
- Results: Clients, student therapists, and crisis center staff were satisfied with the quality of services, and clients reported reduced symptoms of depression and PTSD.
Evidence-levelEffective (About evidence-level criteria)
Domestic violence and other crimes like sexual assault can cause survivors to experience depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health conditions. Rural survivors face significant barriers in seeking treatment for these conditions.
The Wyoming Trauma Telehealth Treatment Clinic (WTTTC) uses videoconferencing to connect survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault to psychology doctoral students. The students gain valuable experience, while the patients receive needed therapy. Therapy sessions are free to clients.
The University of Wyoming-based clinic currently has two sites:
- Gillette Abuse Refuge Foundation in rural Gillette
The clinic is a partnership of the University of Wyoming Psychology Department and the University of Wyoming Center for Rural Health Research and Education. The WTTTC received funding from the state of Wyoming.
To learn more about the program, including its history, see the Ohio Valley ReSource article Serving Survivors in Rural States, Telemedicine Brings Treatment for Sexual Abuse.
Survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other violent crimes can access free psychotherapy services via secure, encrypted videoconferencing technology. Doctoral students who have been trained in trauma intervention theory and techniques provide the therapy under the supervision of doctorate-level psychologists. An individual session lasts 60 to 90 minutes and occurs weekly.
Before, the sites could only refer clients to counseling services, which were not located onsite. Offering psychotherapy at these safe houses and similar nonprofit organizations allows clients to address immediate, practical needs like emergency housing while at the same time addressing their mental health needs. In addition, this arrangement allows the crisis center staff to initiate a warm handoff between client and student therapist.
In a 2015 study, 21 participants (including clients, therapists, and crisis center staff) rated different aspects like "ease of equipment use" and "sensitivity of therapist" on a 1-5 scale. The lowest score was a 4 from the crisis center staff for "ease of technology use," while the highest score was a 5 from the crisis center staff for "quality of staff interactions with therapists." The clients themselves ranked the overall quality of services a 4.81 out of 5.
Clients completed a questionnaire to measure the presence and severity of PTSD symptoms. The 2015 study showed that the mean score from this questionnaire decreased from 54.43 pre-treatment to 34.10 post-treatment, showing an improvement in PTSD symptoms.
Clients also completed a self-report measuring depression symptoms. The mean score from this report decreased from 29.33 pre-treatment to 15.24 post-treatment, showing an improvement in depression symptoms.
For more information about program results:
Gray, M.J., Hassija, C.M., Jaconis, M., Barrett, C., Zheng, P., Steinmetz, S., & James, T. (2015). Provision of Evidence-Based Therapies to Rural Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault via Telehealth: Treatment Outcomes and Clinical Training Benefits. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 9(3), 235-241. Article Abstract
Hassija, C. & Gray, M.J. (2011). The Effectiveness and Feasibility of Videoconferencing Technology to Provide Evidence-Based Treatment to Rural Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Populations. Telemedicine and e-Health, 17(4), 309-315. Article Abstract
Sites will need a high-speed internet connection to run the videoconferencing technology. This may be a barrier in some rural communities.
Program coordinators would like to expand their services but say it could be difficult to secure funding to more therapists. The team currently has 3 to 5 therapists. With a graduate assistantship or other funding, the team could offer more therapist hours and have a broader reach.
Program coordinators report that this is a relatively low-cost program: The only costs include an initial purchase of equipment and funding for the therapists. And, since the sessions are free to clients, there's no hassle with billing.
When students are away for summer or holiday breaks, program coordinators asked psychologists and counselors in the service area if they'd be willing to serve WTTTC clients for 1 to 2 hours per week pro bono or for a reduced rate. Desktop versions of videoconferencing services are available so these professionals can work from their own offices without buying new equipment.
Contact InformationMatt J. Gray, Professor
University of Wyoming Department of Psychology
Abuse and violence
Behavioral health workforce
Health workforce education and training
January 2, 2018
Date updated or reviewed
February 4, 2020
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2020. Wyoming Trauma Telehealth Treatment Clinic [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/998 [Accessed 29 October 2020]
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