Posttraumatic headache (PTH) is a common and highly disabling consequence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in U.S. military service members and veterans. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for PTH has been shown to significantly improve disability outcomes in veterans with persistent PTH when delivered in-person. Telemedicine platforms can dramatically increase access to evidence-based care. However, whether CBT for PTH retains its effectiveness when delivered through a telemedicine platform has yet to be established. The purpose of this 3-arm randomized clinical trial is to compare Clinic-based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CCBT) to Telemedicine-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TCBT) and to treatment as usual (TAU) in 525 service members and veterans with chronic posttraumatic headaches (PTH) at 3 VA medical centers and 4 military treatment facilities across the U.S. Participants will be assessed for headache-related disability, headache experience, and psychiatric comorbidities across multiple time points.



Eligible Ages
Between 18 Years and 70 Years
Eligible Genders
Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion Criteria

  • Any veteran or active duty service member (DEERS-eligible; age 18 to 70 years) with mild or moderate TBI whose headache began or exacerbated within 3 months of a head or neck injury. - Headache meets ICHD-3 A5.2.2.1 criterion for delayed-onset persistent headache attributable to mild TBI and PTH is ongoing at enrollment (most recent headache within the past 2 weeks). - At least moderate to severe headache-related disability based on a HIT-6 score greater than 50. - Participant is stable on headache medication at baseline assessment (i.e., no changes in medication prescriptions in the past 4 weeks; this includes botulinum toxin injections and devices like Cefaly). - Participant has a phone where they can receive reminders and complete the on-line Headache Diaries. - Participant speaks and reads/understands English well enough to fully participate in the intervention and to reliably complete assessment measures.

Exclusion Criteria

  • Participant reports a significant change in headache symptoms within 4 weeks of screening or has another secondary headache that may account for symptoms. - Participant has medication overuse headache based on Structured Diagnostic Headache Interview-Revised (Brief Version; SDIH-R) and clinical judgment. - Participant has a psychiatric problem that warrants immediate treatment as indicated in the electronic health record, flagged study during testing, or confirmed by a clinician through screening or review of clinical notes. - Participant demonstrates significant cognitive impairment that could impact treatment adherence/benefit.

Study Design

Study Type
Intervention Model
Parallel Assignment
Primary Purpose
Double (Investigator, Outcomes Assessor)
Masking Description
Independent evaluators will complete posttreatment and follow-up assessments with each participant. They will instruct participants not to share which treatment group they were assigned. The Principle Investigator will remain blind to treatment randomization outcomes.

Arm Groups

ArmDescriptionAssigned Intervention
Active Comparator
Clinic-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CCBT)
CCBT provides CBT for posttraumatic headache through 8 face-to-face, in-clinic sessions.
  • Behavioral: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Posttraumatic Headache
    CBT for Posttraumatic Headaches consists of 8 sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy that focus on (1) discussions and exercises that increase awareness of what may be related to headaches, (2) relaxation techniques to manage physiological stress, and (3) problem-solving techniques to manage common stressors. Sessions are delivered weekly and can last between 45 to 75 minutes based on clinical content and patient response to the material.
    Other names:
    • CCBT
Active Comparator
Telemedicine-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TCBT)
TCBT provides 8-sessions of CBT for posttraumatic headache using telemedicine technology rather than attending in-office sessions. Additionally, TCBT includes instructions for each session specific to the mechanics of a telehealth encounter (e.g., asking participant for name, location, and accessible phone number for location in case of technical failure or crisis). All TCBT participants must be enrolled at the MTF or VA from which they were recruited, and the treatment facility will be notified that they are receiving TCBT in case a crisis arises and needs to be managed by the site.
  • Other: Telemedicine-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TCBT)
    Participants assigned to TCBT will receive 8 sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy using telemedicine rather than face-to face office visits.
Active Comparator
Treatment As Usual
Participants will continue to engage in clinical care as usual for 8 weeks. Research staff will call the TAU participants weekly to assess for adverse events. Research staff at each site will be trained on standardized assessment of usual care activities using forms adapted from our single-site trial.
  • Other: Treatment as Usual
    Participants will continue to engage in medical care as usual for 8 weeks.
    Other names:
    • TAU or TPU

Recruiting Locations

South Texas Veterans Health Care System
San Antonio, Texas 78229
Alex Carrizales

More Details

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

Study Contact

Nicole A Brackins, MS

Detailed Description

Posttraumatic headache (PTH) is noticeably more common among military service members and veterans than among civilians, with an estimated 80-90% of veterans with TBI reporting new or exacerbated headaches. Unlike civilian PTH, military and veteran PTH is likely to become chronic and recalcitrant to most front-line interventions for primary headache (e.g., migraine, tension-type). Service members and veterans with PTH report significantly decreased productivity in work and home activities and high rates of military discharge and work absenteeism. Pharmacological treatments for chronic PTH have proven problematic (i.e., unwanted side effects; worsening of symptoms long term). However, prior to 2019, guidance for non-pharmacological treatment approaches for PTH was unclear. In 2019, the investigators completed a single-site randomized clinical trial comparing Clinic-based CBT for PTH to Treatment at Usual in 193 veterans with PTH. The study found that Clinic-based CBT for PTH led to a significant improvement in headache-related disability (as measured by the 6-Item Headache Impact Test; HIT-6) at follow-up. In contrast, headache disability scores for participants in the Treatment as Usual condition remained unchanged. COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread recognition of the need for distance-technology platforms to add meaningful infrastructure for extended service delivery without the limitations of in-office care. Telehealth-based care can decrease the cost and increase the convenience of treatment leading some to suggest that telehealth may eventually become a first option for treating patients. Given the potential impact of CBT for PTH to improve the functioning of service members and veterans with PTH following TBI, it is important to determine whether the results of the single-site trial can be replicated across diverse geographic regions and whether CBT for PTH retains its efficacy in improving headache-related disability when delivered through telemedicine platforms.


Study information shown on this site is derived from ClinicalTrials.gov (a public registry operated by the National Institutes of Health). The listing of studies provided is not certain to be all studies for which you might be eligible. Furthermore, study eligibility requirements can be difficult to understand and may change over time, so it is wise to speak with your medical care provider and individual research study teams when making decisions related to participation.