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Group-Based Integrative Health Program Improves Mental Health, Pain in Female Veterans

July 30, 2020

Participation in a group-based complementary and integrative health program significantly improved self-reported mental health and pain interfering with work in a pilot sample of female veterans, according to a study published in the journal Explore. 

“Transforming Health and Resiliency through Integration of Values-based Experiences (THRIVE) is a 14-week group medical appointment-based clinical curriculum developed using evidence-based components of integrative medicine, positive psychology, and acceptance and commitment therapy,” researchers wrote. “THRIVE group medical appointments are 2-hour, weekly sessions focusing on 12 topic areas, with 12 to 15 veterans per group and three to five staff present.” 

Sessions address topics such as sleep, nutrition, stress reduction and movement, mental health and the pursuit of happiness, and purpose.  

Researchers collected data for 201 female veterans enrolled in 14 THRIVE cohorts from the outpatient women’s health clinic at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida. Participants self-administered assessments using standardized scales for physical and mental health at the first session, midway through the program, and at the end of the program.

The study found significant improvement on the following self-reported mental health scales by the end of the program: the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7, the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire-II, and the Satisfaction with Life Scale. The mental component of the Short Form-12 health survey also showed significant improvement.  

Pain interfering with work, too, improved significantly—from “quite a bit” at the first visit to “moderately” by the intervention’s end.  

More robust evaluation of the program is warranted,” researchers wrote, “but these results provide preliminary evidence that a whole health approach has the potential to make significant improvements in reducing chronic pain and depression among US veterans.”  

Jolynn Tumolo


Haun JN, Paykel J, Alman AC, Patel N, Melillo C. A complementary and integrative health group-based program pilot demonstrates positive health outcomes with female Veterans. Explore (NY). 2020;16(2):85-89. doi:10.1016/j.explore.2019.08.001

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