More on PTSD

PTSD (post tramatic stress disorder) or OSI (operational stress injury) is one of the most common issues with todays Military. It is a disorder that affects people after witnessing an event that scars them psychologically. The individiuals with PTSD often experience flashbacks, loss of interest in social activities, avoiding people and places that remind them of the events and feelings of guilt. While I am dealing more with the military aspect of this, it also affects others such as first responders, victims of violent crimes and those involved in abuse, both mentally and physically.
There are many therapies that deal with PTSD and I hope I can give a brief outline of some of them. My primary focus will be on the ones I feel have the most value without changing body chemistry or is too invasive.
The first is CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT is a “problem focused” and “action oriented” therapy. It a a process that realizes that some behaviours cannot be controlled through rational thought. The main goal of CBT is to not diagnose the person with a particular disease, but look at the whole person and decides what needs to be fixed    It is a 4 step program.                                                                                                                                                                       1 identifiy the critical behaviour
2 determine if it is excessive
3 evaluate the intensity, frequency and duration
4 attempt to decrease step 3

This is done by replacing the negatives in the thought process and magnifying the positives. I know this sounds simple but it isn’t. The patient learns skills that include identifying exaggerated thinking, adjusting beliefs and problem solving. It also helps the patient come to the understanding that the events that brought them here was not their fault.
The biggest downside to this is that is limited to a number of sessions.
Often with CBT, Exposure Therapy is utilized. This is one I have a hard time with.

Exposure therapy is a type of behaviour therapy used to treat anxiety disorders and PTSD. It involves exposing the patient to their most painful memories with the goal of redressing their unsettled emotions with the present. It sometimes uses “flooding”. It really is desensitization. We all know about “Pavlov’s Dog”. RIng the bell and the dog salivates. That basically is what this is. The patient is exposed to the fear that he or she has. The psychologist offers little or no help except to remind them of relaxation techniques. So everytime the fear or anxiety occurs, the next programmed response is to do the relaxation techniques taught. It seems strange to me to purposely revisit the situation that got you here.                                                                                   Now, with todays technology, we can do Virtual Reality exposure therapy.

The Canadian Forces is now experimenting with a virtual reality program devleoped in the Netherlands. The patient steps onto a treadmill where they listen to music and see photos meant to remind them of the tramatic events. With their therapist there, they are asked a series of questions. The continuous walking is meant to represent facing your fear by walking toward it. Will this work? Who knows as this is a new venture into treatment.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/experimental-ptsd-therapy-gets-traumatized-soldiers-walking-toward-relief

The next are the Group and Family Therapy. Again it is useful to a point. Your family should be involved in the councilling you get. They should know what you are going through and what to expect. They also need to know you are getting help and not just going through the motions. They need to talk about their feelings, fears and expectations. It brings the family together to know that as a unit they can learn and overcome the problem. As with the Group Therapy, you will get to meet others you can actually relate with. They have seen what you seen and lived with the same problems you do. It helps reinforce the more social aspect you may be missing. You won’t feeling so alone or secluded. But you must share. It is a give and take proposition. Myself personally, I have a hard time talking about myself and my feelings. But thats just me.

Now my favourite type
Animal Therapy
FIrstly, I would like this known. The Canadian Military does not currently endorse animal therapy. Apparently it does not have enough evidence to support this treatment.

If currently in the Military and you feel you need a service animal you must go through the chain of command and get permission. Good luck with that.
For years now, animals have been used to help the aged, children and the terminally ill. It is a fact. It is also a fact that pets have a positive impact on people who care for them. They reduce stress and blood pressure, promotes exercise and lowers blood pressure.
So when a soldier feels isolated from the rest of his company or platoon, where does he turn. Alcohol? Drugs?

If diagnosed with PTSD, I suggest a Service Animal. Pets have a very big and positve impact on our lives. They demand care. They need food, exercise and attention. Animals are not prejudiced and do not EVER judge. They do not care what you seen or have done. They do not see wheel chairs, crutches or prostheses. That is not something they care about.
As for what type of animal can assist you with PTSD, almost any animal can help. Dogs, cats, birds, horses they are all helpful. But lets talk about Horses and Dogs.

Can Praxis, in Alberta, provides equine therapy. If you have ever been on a horse you know you have been told to relax. Horse’s reflect the mood of the riders. In this aspect the patient can now get instant feed back on how their mood affect those around them, without a word being spoken.
The history of equine therapy goes back to the ancient Greeks in 600 B.C. and in 1946 used in Scandinavia for the Polio outbreak. So the use of equine therapy in PTSD is not such a stretch. It is easy to create a connection with a horse. They have a common connection with humans in as much as social and response behaviours. The therapy goes beyond just riding a horse, that could be weeks or months down the road for some. To start you just might just sit in the field with the horse or be asked to lead him or even put the halter on. This helps with the thought process and problem solving . All this forms as a connection between rider and horse. But it doesn’t have to be a horse, it could be something smaller, say a donkey or a mule.

Can Praxis, in Alberta, provides equine therapy. If you have ever been on a horse you know you have been told to relax. Horse’s reflect the mood of the riders. In this aspect the patient can now get instant feed back on how their mood affect those around them, without a word being spoken.
The history of equine therapy goes back to the ancient Greeks in 600 B.C. and in 1946 used in Scandinavia for the Polio outbreak. So the use of equine therapy in PTSD is not such a stretch. It is easy to create a connection with a horse. They have a common connection with humans in as much as social and response behaviours. The therapy goes beyond just riding a horse, that could be weeks or months down the road for some. To start you just might just sit in the field with the horse or be asked to lead him or even put the halter on. This helps with the thought process and problem solving . All this forms as a connection between rider and horse. But it doesn’t have to be a horse, it could be something smaller, say a donkey or a mule.

Certified service dogs have been in place for years assisting the visual impaired, hearing impairments etc .

At first, the National Service Dogs began with a mother helping her 3 yr old with autisim in 1996. Since then it has grown Internationally. In 2011, National Service Dogs launched the sevice dogs to help veterans with long term PTSD and in 2013 the NSD opened the program to first responders

Now there are many organizations that help with certified service dogs. Besides NSD there is Wounded Warriors Canada.
Here is a brief outline of what the dogs do.
For the physical disabled, they are trained to walk beside a wheel chair, bring a telephone to the vet, jump up and turn the light switch off or on and more depending on the needs.
For the veteran, they give comfort and a purpose. The dogs do not judge the vet or his or her disablities. It just doesn’t care about those. It gives the vet a purpose, something to care about.

If you suffer from nightmares he will wake you. If you start to have a flashback he will nudge you to help you refocus. They are in tune to what you feel and need. If you feel stressed, they will come for a scatch to help break your attention. All they require is affection and care. If being in a busy street or shopping mall, they can help keep a safe distance between you and the crowd. Because they need constant walking, they can help with social interaction because people will ask about your service dog.

I am not saying this is a cure all, there is a downside to the dogs. The vet can become too dependant on the dog, sometimes hindering the progress. Sometimes the vet will start to believe there are things they cannot do on there own. We have to remember the dogs are a recovery tool but real progress is in the person.
But that being said, I am still a great believer in the Animal Assisted Program and the government would do well to invest more time and money in the project.

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