Friday, August 10, lunch time, found Urban Balance clinicians Hedy Carrera, LCPC, and Christina Zerwer, LCPC speaking to a group of disabled or challenged military veterans about PTSD and therapies available.
The Rehab Institute of Chicago has sponsored its third annual summer military sports camp and parolympic games. Roughly fifty vets come, some with family members or aides, to participate in various sports and activities from judo and soccer, to swimming and archery. The camp aims to build confidence, trust, and self-esteem to veterans with various physical obstacles as a result of war.
This afternoon, after a lunch of deli sandwiches and chips, Christina and Hedy provided a brief over-view of the signs and symptoms of Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and different treatment options.
Christina began, speaking on PTSD, basically how it can develop in a person who was exposed to or involved in a potentially life endangering or threatening event. The person may begin to experience the following symptoms:
- Re-living the event (also called flashbacks or re-experiencing): Memories of trauma can come back at any time. You may have nightmares or feel like you are going through the experience all over again.
- Avoidance: You try to stay away from things that remind you of the event…including discussing it with a counselor, friends or family.
- Feeling numb: You find it hard to express your feelings, and you may not be interested in spending time with family and friends.
- Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal): You may be constantly on guard, startle or get angry all of a sudden.
For more detailed information about signs and symptoms of PTSD, go tohttp://www.helpguide.org/mental/post_traumatic_stress_disorder_symptoms_treatment.htm
Participants nodded along, asked questions, shared some of their own experiences with these symptoms. One man spoke with Christina afterwards, saying that he had been in-patient for several months getting a new type of mild shock treatment to treat severe symptoms. He is proud to say that although he still has difficulty with being in a car sometimes, and dark movie theaters, he is no longer generally keyed up in public, orjumping every time a door slams or car backfires.
Hedy spoke next, talking about different types of therapies that have been proven to be most effective in treating PTSD. The most common, and affordable include:
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): CPT teaches you how to identify trauma-related thoughts and change them so they are more accurate and cause less distress.
- Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE): In PE you talk about your trauma over and over until the memories no longer upset you. You also go to places that are safe, but that you have been staying away from because they are related to the trauma.
- Medication: Your doctor may also prescribe medications. These can work alone or with therapy to help you feel less sad, worried and agitated. They can also help you sleep.
Other types of therapies that can be helpful include :
- EMDR, an eye movement technique that works to “re-route” traumatic thoughts and memories to decrease the emotional charge connected with the memory, thus reducing the distress of PTSD
- Equine Therapy, involving two therapists, the client, and a horse.Clients are “mirrored” by the horse, who will display different behaviors based on the emotions he senses in the client.With the help of the therapists, the client re-learns emotional control, trust, and confidence.
- Art Therapy, using different mediums, the you are able to express creatively traumatic memories, emotions, reactions, releasing some of the trauma of the event.
For more detailed information about treatment options go tohttp://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/treatment-ptsd.asp
After a brief question and answer session regarding the treatments discussed, the vets were provided with a resource sheet for different options of how to find a therapist with experience/expertise in treating PTSD. Here are some of those options:
- Sidran Institute Help Desk* provides will help you find therapists who specialize in trauma treatment. Email or call the Help Desk at (410) 825-8888.
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America* offers a therapist search by location and mental health disorder. Call or email.
- Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies* offers a search of licensed therapists who offer cognitive or behavioral therapies.
- EMDR International Association* has a locator listing professionals who provide EMDR.
- American Psychological Association* has a Psychologist Locator that allows you to search by location, specialty, insurance accepted, and gender of provider.
- Psychology Today,* offers a therapist directory by location. You can also find treatment centers here.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a Mental Health Services Locator by location and type of facility (inpatient, outpatient, residential).
Specific for Vets:
- All VA Medical Centers and many VA clinics provide PTSD care.
- Some VA centers have specialty programs for PTSD. Use the VA PTSD Program Locator to find a VA PTSD program.
- Vet Centers provide readjustment counseling to Veterans and their families after war. Find a Vet Center near you.
VA Medical Centers and Vet Centers are also listed in the phone book. In the Government pages, look under “United States Government Offices.” Then look for “Veterans Affairs, Dept of.”
Many participants were eager to receive this information, and were very thankful for the presentation. Several thanked us, saying that they were grateful for the options of finding a good therapist. Some asked questions about therapies, and all looked eager to get back to playing sports and having fun!
Hedy and Christina gave a big sigh, feeling good about the work we had done, both earlier in the day with the care-givers (see blog post about Care Giver Self Care), and the afternoon with the vets. We hoped that this information can help with the healing process, making life just a little bit more comfortable and joyful for everyone there.
We also thank the Rehab Institute of Chicago for sponsoring this event. We saw many happy faces in that group after lunch!