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The Research-Proven Combo for Healing PTSD: Guided Imagery + Healing Touch

30 Dec

We got this query from a Healing Touch practitioner who was doing her due diligence homework on how to best help veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress. She'd come across last year's journal article in Military Medicine. We get this question periodically, so we decided to post it this time.

Hello,

I have recently read an article published in Military Medicine regarding the use of Healing Touch and Health Journeys Healing Trauma meditation.

As I was purchasing the Healing Trauma meditation, I examined the Relaxation and Wellness meditation. Your website states that the Relaxation and Wellness meditation is the first portion of a protocol to be used with PTSD.

I am preparing to work with military personnel experiencing PTSD in the very near future. Would you be willing to share the research or protocol that is referenced online regarding the Relaxation and Wellness meditation and Healing Trauma meditation for PTSD?

Thank you very much for any assistance you may offer.

Warmly,
A.T., Healing Touch practitioner

Dear A.T.,

Jennifer Strauss PhD was the PI (principal investigator) on the studies out of Duke University/Durham VAMC that used both the Relaxation and Wellness imagery, plus the Healing Trauma imagery. I can send you my power point with her findings on it, or you can feel free to reach out to her yourself.

She had actually started out just using the Healing Trauma imagery and decided, after getting feedback from her subjects, it would be better to start them off with something more simple and mood-regulating, and then work them into the more intense and emotionally evocative imagery of the Healing Trauma narrative.

The population was women vets suffering from longstanding military sexual trauma plus combat trauma, who had not gotten much improvement from talk therapy or medication over the years.
Another population she studied with this protocol was male vets with combat trauma.

She wound up getting her subjects started with the R & W imagery (for the first 2 weeks, I think) as a way to install self-soothing skills before proceeding to the trauma imagery (for the next 6 weeks, to be used interchangeably with the R & W imagery).

She also had a social worker or psychologist call once a week to see how the listening was going and to answer any questions. This personal contact was very important, she felt, in keeping the vets going with the 8 week experiment.

Because of these insights from Dr. Strauss, I suggested to the Scripps researchers (Mimi Guaneri et al) to do the same, but they proceeded with only the Healing Trauma imagery just the same. And they had great success, so, so much for my expert advice!

We think this worked out because they used the trauma imagery in conjunction with Healing Touch, and probably the Healing Touch was such a great transponder of the emotional intensity of the imagery, it made it safe to use the very intense imagery, right off the bat.

Still, having a choice of 2 imagery exercises, one less intense and one pretty deep, seems to me to be an ideal combo, even with the addition of Healing Touch. In fact, one of Dr Strauss' conclusions was that the vets liked having a choice of audio tracks to listen to. So on her final pilot, she introduced 4 or 5 audio tracks, with the instructions to listen to one of them – any one – a minimum of 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.

I hope this answers your question. Please let me know if you want to see the power point and I'll email it to you.

I'm glad you're doing this. Guided imagery is a great tool for combat PTS and MST (posttraumatic stress and military sexual trauma), and used at many bases, military hospitals and VAMCs, but not nearly as much as it could be. Please let us know how it goes.

All best,
Belleruth

p.s.
The very fabulous Rev. Terry Sparks, at OKC VAMC, is a Master Level Healing Touch practitioner who has used this combination of guided imagery and Healing Touch with veterans, and is quite knowledgeable about the how-to's and the studies to date. She's a terrific resource and very generous about sharing what she knows. If you wish, I can put you in touch with her as well, but would want to get permission from her first.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award.