Alternative PTSD Therapies Catching On


By Debbie Gregory.

The broad acceptance of PTSD after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has posed an unexpected challenge: what is the best way to treat it?

Traditional medical approaches usually rely on drugs, which is not terribly popular with veterans. This has given rise to hundreds of alternatives, including: therapeutic fishing, rafting, backpacking trips, horse riding, transcendental meditation, yoga, dogs, art collectives and dolphin swims, just to name a few..

There has been a marked increase in the number of veterans seeking treatment beyond drugs. New studies suggest that these therapies can be as beneficial as drugs in reducing depression and anxiety without side effects or stigma. That’s why spending some time in downward dog may be just what the clinician orders—or should consider—for veterans with PTSD.

Yoga offers a unique and ancient system to manage the mind and emotions. There are several principles that yoga has to offer which help unravel the mysteries of our experiences and their impact.

The Atlanta VA Medical Center’s recreational therapy program has partnered with the Georgia Aquarium in a program called the Veterans Immersion Program. Since its founding, the program has hosted more than 1,300 military personnel who have injuries both seen and unseen. Participants of all abilities are welcome 365 days a year to swim or dive alongside whale sharks and manta rays.

Operation Warrior Wellness (OWW), a division of the David Lynch Foundation, offers the Transcendental Meditation-based Resilient Warrior Program, a simple, easy-to-learn, evidence-based approach to relieving symptoms of PTSD and major depression and developing greater resilience to stress. Since its initial launch in 2010, the OWW initiative has partnered with leading veterans service organizations, Army and Marine bases and VA medical centers across the country.

Artists for Trauma uses artistic expression to provide a creative portal to aid recovery, process complex emotions, regain confidence and build self-acceptance after suffering a traumatic experience.

There are many more alternative therapies available. Treating PTSD is no longer a one-size-fits-all.

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Military Connection: Veterans Turning to Yoga: By Debbie Gregory

yoga for veteransVeterans of all generations suffer from a broad spectrum of ailments, including arthritis, joint and muscle pain/stiffness, substance abuse, depression, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Due to the attempts to treat their conditions, Veterans are among the most medicated population in America. But not every Veteran is keen on the idea of taking pills. For that reason, many Veterans have been seeking alternative methods of treatment.

A surprisingly high number of Veterans have turned to yoga. Even more surprising is the number of Vietnam-era Veterans who are taking up the discipline, or at least trying it out.

Across the country, yoga instructors have been offering free classes for Veterans. Some instructors have reached out to local Veterans service organizations to form  partnerships. But there have also been several reports of local Veterans organizations recruiting instructors to come to their posts and clubs in order to provide yoga to Veterans.

While those who are unfamiliar with yoga may link it to Hindu or Buddhist practices, yoga has been a popular physical fitness regimen in the U.S. for about thirty years. Yoga is a low-impact exercise that still elevates the heart rate.

The obvious benefits of yoga as a regular exercise routine are increased flexibility, strength and range of motion, as well as relieving back pain and other muscle and joint pain.

But there are also other benefits that are not as easily gauged. The number of Veterans who have claimed that yoga has helped them with PTSD and other mental or emotional ailments cannot be ignored.

One of the root definitions of the word “yoga” is combining. People around the world believe that yoga is the practice or discipline of combining one’s mind and body. But when utilizing the poses just for physical fitness, yoga is the combining of stretches, poses, breathing control and concentration that give both your body and your brain a workout.

Maintaining any type of exercise routine has proven to keep people both physically and mentally fit. But running, lifting weights, and playing sports just isn’t an option for some people. Yoga is proving to be a great alternative for Veterans who may not be able to PT the way that they used to.

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Military Connection: Veterans Turning to Yoga: By Debbie Gregory