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Making Progress with the Fort Sill Initiative

01 May

I’m in Garmisch, Germany right now, at one of the Armed Forces Recreation Centers in the Bavarian Alps, to speak about guided imagery to a bi-annual conference for US military health providers under the Europe Regional Medical Command, who are working in Italy, Belgium and Germany.

Just before coming here, I was in San Diego, where I had the great pleasure of speaking to a group of 700 of the National Guard’s leaders - NCO’s and officers who run programs for suicide prevention, sexual assault response, psychological health, alcohol and drug dependency, and resilience training. (Yes, Virginia, Comprehensive Soldier Fitness has come to the NG, and just about every place else in the military, too).

At the last minute, for this keynote, I decided to ‘test-drive’ our new warrior-centric guided imagery intro by Dave Rauls, 1SG, U.S. Army (RET), the primary force behind making our stuff more military friendly.  As a result of the focus groups he pulled together, we were able to get the feedback we needed on what it would take to get a crusty warfighter to listen to guided imagery- they even threw in what the package should look like if we wanted a warrior to open it!  The result is the Ft Sill Resiliency Series, and the first title - a modified version of the five exercises on Stress Hardiness - will be good to go on iTunes in a week or so.  

Check out the new packaging, as per our advisors’ instructions!  Our group felt it would speak directly to returning warriors who feel so split.  They said, “Our warrior selves can’t get back to our civilian selves”.

But I digress.  Back to San Diego and the National Guard.  I played Dave’s segment for this large room of National Guard officers and NCO’s, and it was a sea of camouflage yelling HOOAH!!  They totally got how Dave’s intro touched on every possible button of resistance that a Service Member might have to listening to guided imagery or meditation or some other form of “soft” self-help.  (To give you a clue, he starts it out like a morning drill, and then, with his southwestern twang, launches with:

“Soldiers this is a fitness session for your mind. This Guided Imagery you may think is for some quack that has never lived a hungry day in their lives…. Another part of some tree-huggin’ society crap they came up with in some shrink tank. Well, Hell, I beg to differ…” 

And it gets even better from there.  His words made this audience laugh, tear up and really think.  It was even better and more effective than I thought it could be.  

At Fort Sill we’ll be distributing these guided imagery audio programs primarily through the command structure, as opposed to using the usual vehicle of behavioral health providers. That’s similar to what Comprehensive Soldier Fitness does - they use a training/learning model as opposed to a healing/fixing model.  By keeping it in the domain of wellness, readiness and resilience, they can teach stress management skills for daily living that can go down much more smoothly and easily, and be congruent with warrior norms and values.  It happens to be a therapeutic intervention too, but because it’s framed as another tool for your daily toolkit, it gets buy-in.  

Because our stuff is digital and can serve as a stand-alone resource out in the community, we can hand it off to NCO’s to distribute with (and sometimes without) a simple background briefing.  And thanks to Major Richard Moore, who’s willing to make Ft. Sill’s Resiliency Center a guided imagery distribution hub, the new imagery can also go to the chaplains, social workers, family workers and soldier advocates too.  

Cindy and I will be going out there to do some training and introducing on May 18th. We’re very excited about this. We think this new approach is going to work.

Take care and be well,

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