Website teaches coping skills to military community

As part of the Integrated Mental Health Strategy, the Defense Department’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology, and the Veterans Affairs Department’s mental health informatics section have partnered to develop an interactive, online educational and life-coaching program.

Moving Forward is designed to teach problem-solving skills to veterans, service members and their families, according to Dr. Robert Ciulla, director of the mobile health program at the National Center for Telehealth and Technology.

Moving Forward is focused on addressing stress ― specifically, recognizing when a person is stressed, identifying stressors and developing stress management skills.

To accomplish this, users navigate through a set of problem-solving exercises. The site offers quizzes to evaluate stress levels and games to practice counseling progressions. “This gives users a way to interact with the course ― to learn how stress affects them, in particular ― and to learn about their general problem-solving style,” Ciulla said.

Users then learn techniques for generating solutions when they’re faced with a problem, he added.

“Problem-solving is foundational,” Ciulla said. The skills learned in addressing any one problem can be transferred to addressing a variety of problems.

The techniques on the site are based on a problem-solving therapy program that has been used successfully with service members and veterans across the country, a growing number of whom have mental health care needs, Ciulla said.

“We know that approximately 20 percent of service members returning from a combat deployment do experience adjustment problems like post-traumatic stress, depression, anger, problems in work settings [and] family and relationship issues. This series of problem-solving exercises teaches the user how to literally learn how to work with some of the problems that they’re confronting,” he said.

The Moving Forward website is designed to allow users to remain anonymous.

“We know that stigma is a prevalent issue in the military. [Service members] are concerned that if they see somebody on a face-to-face basis, it’ll be seen as a sign of weakness or that they can’t perform their duty, Ciulla said.

Other advantages of using the website include never having to wait in a crowded waiting room and the ability to log on from home or another safe environment, he noted.

The site is designed to stand alone ― no referral from a caregiver is needed, Ciulla said, but it is not intended to entirely replace face-to-face care if that type of care is needed.

For users who have chronic stress and chronic problems in their lives, the site can serve as a steppingstone to getting face-to-face care, he added.

Moving Forward can be found at