Identifying and Treating Moral Injury-Based Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Military Service Members and Veterans



Brian Klassen, PhD
October 18, 2018
- 1 pm

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Moral injury is a relatively nascent construct intended to capture reactions to events that involve the violation of service members’ and veterans’ deeply held moral beliefs. Mounting research suggests that morally injurious events may result in different PTSD symptom presentations compared to traumatic experiences that are primarily based on intense fear (i.e., life threat) or loss. 

In this webinar, Dr. Klassen provides an overview of the signs of moral injury and symptoms that appear to distinguish moral injury-based PTSD from primarily fear-based PTSD. Dr. Klassen compares and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of different existing assessments of moral injury and provide recommendations for incorporating moral injury screenings into standard clinical intake processes. 

Both existing evidence-based treatments for PTSD and novel interventions have shown promise for the treatment of moral injury-based PTSD. We will discuss the treatment mechanisms of each of these interventions and review emerging moral injury-specific treatment outcomes. Dr. Klassen also describes in detail how existing evidence-based treatments for PTSD (i.e., Cognitive Processing Therapy and Prolonged Exposure) can be tailored to effectively treat moral injury-based PTSD while maintaining fidelity to the treatment protocols.

Learning Objectives: 

  1. Recognize differences between acute and traumatic stress.
  2. Recognize differences between moral injury-based PTSD and primarily fear-based PTSD among military service members and veterans.
  3. Evaluate existing assessment tools for moral injury
  4. Compare different evidence-based PTSD treatments and novel interventions for the treatment of moral injury-based PTSD
Presenter(s) Biography

Brian Klassen, PhD


Brian Klassen, PhD, is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center and staff psychologist in the Road Home Program: Center for Veterans and Their Families. As a clinician, Dr. Klassen provides individual and group psychotherapy to both combat veterans and survivors of military sexual trauma. Dr. Klassen is particularly interested in moral injury as well as psychotherapeutic mechanisms of change. He has presented scholarly work at the annual meetings of the American Psychological Association and the Research Society on Alcoholism and he has published his research in the Journal of Traumatic Stress and the Journal of American College Health among others. A graduate of Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI) and Wayne State University (Detroit, MI), Dr. Klassen completed his clinical training in the PTSD, substance use disorder, and chronic pain clinics of the Jesse Brown Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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