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A psychotherapist working with a couple whose 23-year-old son recently returned from Iraq with PTSD

23 Nov
A psychotherapist working with a couple whose 23-year-old son recently returned from Iraq with PTSD wonder if there is an in-patient therapy program that uses guided imagery for the treatment of posttraumatic stress...
Question:

Dear Belleruth,
I am a psychotherapist working with a couple whose 23-year-old son has recently returned from Iraq. He has PTSD. They are wondering if there is an in-patient therapy program that uses guided imagery for the treatment of posttraumatic stress. The Dad would like his son to receive the most comprehensive program possible. Thanks.
Manny W.


Dear Manny,
It really depends on where you live, whether or not the V.A. in your area has a comprehensive, forward-thinking PTSD program with guided imagery or not.... and even in a V.A. hospital where they do use imagery, it might be heavily used in one department, while the rest of the hospital knows nothing about it. I suppose in an ideal world, there would be some nation-wide consistency, but that''s just not the case.

I think the V.A. system has some of the most forward-thinking, terrific PTSD programs you can find in this country or around the world, and also some of the least effective, most archaic, poorly designed programs as well - it''s heavily dependent on staff interest, focus and drive. V.A. professionals who are interested go to conferences, read the research literature, push for changes, apply for grants, create programs and get them staffed. Some even recruit community volunteers and do their own fund drives, just to get some cutting edge services going.

Lately, with the new (if belated) government willingness to fund more effective ways to treat PTSD, given the influx of debilitated soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, there''s a new capacity to support these efforts, and guided imagery is such an inexpensive, effective, symptom-reducing intervention, I suspect we''re going to see a lot more of it showing up in a very short time throughout the V.A. system. (We already send our audio programs to over 120 V.A. hospitals & Vet Centers around the country, but, as I said earlier, it’s inconsistent and very dependent on individual personnel who know about it.)

But this doesn''t help your couple with the 23-year-old son with PTSD. If he has a substance abuse problem plus PTSD, he could qualify for the Transcend program that I wrote so much about in Invisible Heroes, located at the Louis B. Stokes V.A. in Brecksville, Ohio. That''s a premier in-patient program that takes vets from all over the country, first to get sober and then, if they qualify with sobriety and strong motivation, to join a 10-week Transcend cohort for dealing intensively with their PTSD. That program is as good as it gets, and outcome studies have consistently shown how effective it is, for both reducing PTSD symptoms and staying sober. But keep in mind, the motivation has to come from him, not just the Dad. This program screens applicants very rigorously, and won’t take him if he’s not serious about getting clean and well.

If you email the office (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) they can tell you whether or not the V.A. hospitals in your area order guided imagery from us. That might be one way to learn what''s going on locally that could help this young man. If you can''t find anything, at the very least he or his parents could read Invisible Heroes, and follow the comprehensive guided imagery program that goes with it: Guided Imagery for the Three Stages of Healing Trauma: 9 Meditations for Posttraumatic Stress. With your support and back-up, this could function as a decent, do-it-yourself, home program, absent other options. (It also can be useful if he’s unwilling to go anywhere for treatment.)

Good luck with this.
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