“Alternative” Therapies for Wounded Veterans with PTSD

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and other war-related experiences are topics I explore quite a bit in my writing. Major Aaron Bricewick, wounded veteran and hero of my military romance novel (True Surrender) struggles with symptoms of PTSD throughout the book.

I recently posted links to a couple of articles on my Facebook page related to “non-traditional” ways that wounded veterans are finding healing of (or a better way to manage) PTSD symptoms like nightmares, anxiety and depression. They don’t make for very interesting fiction, but I pray that they are helping our REAL wounded warriors.

Eye Movement and Desensitization Reprogramming (EMDR) involves remembering a painful incident, but stripping it of its emotional content by asking the patient to follow the therapist’s fingers with his or her eyes. Then when the memory is stored away again, it’s in a less threatening form.

Is it effective?

Dr. Francine Shapiro, the founder of EMDR, found that three 90-minute sessions could alleviate symptoms of civilian PTSD in more than 77 percent of the patients she treated.

A related alternative is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which involves remembering a painful incident, but putting a positive spin on it through the use of acupressure points. A vet might say, “I had to shoot the kid who ran toward my Humvee wearing an explosive vest, but I completely and fully accept myself” and begin tapping his way through five acupressure points on his face and three on his torso.

Does it work? After six one-hour coaching sessions, the average PTSD score dropped to 35. (Read the entire article here.)

The concept of Extreme Sports Therapy is to drop pleasant, high-adrenaline memories on top of ugly combat images, thereby decreasing the potency of the ‘bad’ memories. Organizations like X Sports 4 Vets (Missoula, Mont) offer riverboarding, rock climbing, sky diving, and other extreme sports. Last fall, I posted about an extreme bicycle adventure for wounded veterans; at the time, it was prominent in the news due to ex-president Bush’s involvement.

Does it work?

Experts point to evidence that has to do with cortisone levels (read the full article for details). But perhaps the best evaluation comes direct from a growing number of wounded veterans. “Every time I get out on the river, I come home with stories and big pleasant memories,” says one military amputee. “It does me a lot more good than the pills they’ve been throwing at me.”

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