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Guided Imagery Study at Fort Sill Launches in Earnest

14 Aug

Hello, everyone.

Well, Dr Edgardo Padin and I went to Lawton, Oklahoma and on August 1st, to launch a randomized, controlled study testing the efficacy of our Self-Mastery guided imagery audio program for re-entry stress. This was at Fort Sill with roughly 300 soldiers for subjects – half just back from running roads in Iraq (15th Transport), and half from a battalion that had been training Afghani soldiers (1-17 Field Artillery).  

This is my second attempt to do a study there – I tried to learn from earlier mistakes, this time seeking and receiving tremendous support from the post’s command structure, from Commanding General David Halverson on down. 

As a result, LTC Todd Wasmund introduced the study to the unit leaders in the morning and the soldiers in the afternoon, saying it was important they follow instructions, as the Army was looking for new ways to assist soldiers with re-entry.  He added that MG Halverson, was paying close attention, and that the whole effort had high visibility.  He even flashed a letter from a senior U.S. Senator from the Armed Services Committee, applauding Fort Sill for getting behind this cutting edge effort to test guided imagery for service members.  (I also learned after the fact that earlier in the year there had been a Congressional tasker sent over to the DoD from the House Armed Services Committee, inquiring after what Fort Sill was doing with guided imagery as well.  So there’s evidently strong interest on the Hill.)

LTC Gavin Gardner and LTC Wasmund designated a point person for each unit to check on adherence, and follow-up on survey taking.  This is huge.  Having “enforcers” with real clout can make all the difference for getting accurate and sufficient data.  We are enormously grateful for all of this.  

So, first we met with about 30 unit leaders to explain the study, and then, in the afternoon, with the 300 soldiers.  We randomly split them into an experimental group and a control group – at the start, all of them filled out a Stress Mastery Instrument on paper, devised by Drs Ed Padin and Kevin Young, and they will continue to fill out this survey online (on the ubiquitous Survey Monkey) at 2-week intervals and 30 days post-intervention.

Ed and Kevin are doing this on their own time, using leave time from the Cleveland VAMC, simply because they believe this can help our service people before they become vets, and because the Army, by its nature, makes it easy to capture data from large groups of subjects – it’s just quicker and more efficient than gathering up vets to study, because everyone is right there and, besides, they respond to orders!

The test group will be listening to their pick of the 5 relaxation and guided imagery segments from the Self-Mastery audio for a minimum of 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 8 weeks, along with Fort Sill’s standard, state-of-the-art resiliency training - this is provided to all soldiers post-deployment, during the RESET phase.  The controls will do the resiliency training only.  We hope to learn whether this kind of audio content provides some kind of value-add to the toolkit.  And we’ll come back with a report on what we find to the Chief of Staff at the end of the study, when we have some data analysis. So stay tuned!

Take care, be well and stay cool. (It was a toasty 112 degrees at Fort Sill when we were there, people!  Can you picture soldiers standing in formation and doing drills in heat like that?)

All best,

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