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What Our Military Is Teaching Us

16 Jan

Hello again, Everyone.

Well, January has certainly gotten off to a bang of a start, and I can barely keep up with myself - but it’s all good!  

This week, I’ll be presenting (using powerpoint, Lord help me!) the uses and effectiveness of guided imagery for combat-stressed military to the DCoE (Defense Centers of Excellence - set up by the DoD with the V.A. to find new ways to deal with PTS and TBI.)  

Please, send a good thought my way on Wed. (the 19th) at High Noon when I meet with them in Silver Spring!!  We’ve been hounding, nagging, cajoling and opportuning these good people for the whole 3-4 years they’ve been in existence, and for some reason, they responded to the last pitch Cindy sent them, back in October.  So we’ve been pulling together all manner of data and clinical experience for this presentation, and that’s actually been illuminating, gratifying and - yes - fun for someone like me, who’s a closet data-loving geek. 

Also, last week, some awesome volunteers from the Army have set up a focus group at Fort Sill to give us feedback on how to best introduce guided imagery to combat stressed troops.  A dedicated Army pediatrician, Colonel George Patrin, who’s a key player in setting up an improved model of health care throughout the Army clinic system, (The Patient Centered Medical Home), and David Rauls, a retired NCOIC (that’s non-commissioned officer in charge, people!), who now runs the media center and audio bridge at Fort Sill, pulled together an impressive group of combat-seasoned noncoms who train and manage our troops for the feedback.  Both are passionate about improving mental health care, because of their shared, devastating experience of having lost a cherished son to suicide, and there’s no stopping these guys.

The mission was to go over our imagery and make recommendations about if and how it might be best introduced to troops, and by whom, and when and where it could be used.  This has yielded some very helpful ideas, even on the first round. 

Some consistent ideas have already come up, some of which we’ve heard before:

  • To get the average Joe to listen, Command would have to buy in first.

  • Something like this would be more effective if used on the post before rolling into a situation, as opposed to after.

  • Most won’t be able to go from just after a high-intensity combat situation straight into relaxation and soft music - it would makes most squirm and want to choke someone.

  • The intro track should be from military personnel to military personnel.

  • To be credible, it can’t come from an officer - it has to be a crusty noncom sergeant type, who’s come up through the ranks and can relate to combat experience.

  • The intro should explain why and how the audio program would be of use, and then lay out what it will be doing.

  • The intro should identify, through personal experience, the feelings, reactions and mental state the troop is in, and then model moving away from that state into a stepped down mode.

  • A credible leader could and should ease the soldier out of denial (as in, “Whaddaya mean, I’m fine!” ) and into acceptance of where they’re at, by modeling their own example.

  • No matter what, relaxation and guided imagery is not going to be for everyone. (We really do already know that.)

So we’re gathering some great intel!!  Hopefully this awesome group will be back, meeting again, to provide even more specifics for us. So stand by, as they say.

We’re also lucky enough to have Laurie Giertz, PA-C, Marine wife, coming in to record an intro for spouses and families.  Laurie deals with family issues all the time, in her role supervising an indefatigable team of social workers and nurses who respond to crisis calls from Marines and their families all over the country.  They use guided imagery as an intervention they can mail to people across the country, who otherwise have no services available to them.  As is the case with the awesome people at Ft. Sill, she’s volunteering her time to do this, as a concerned Marine wife.

I’m struck over and over again by the level of altruism, willingness to go to enormous trouble without hesitation and over-arching concern for others that I see in the service members we’re meeting.  I mean, these people take the word “service” for what it actually stands for, and they’re happy for it to not be just about themselves. How refreshing is that?  

Trust me, there are lessons to be learned here for civilians. There’s a real sense of meaning and pleasure in putting others first, and I fear too many of us have gotten too far away from this kind of thinking, to our own detriment and deprivation.

Lots more is happening, and I’ll be back to tell you more.  But for now, I’ve blathered on long enough.

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