Treatments for post traumatic stress disorder help victims reclaim ‘normal life’
Treatments for post traumatic stress disorder are continuously being updated and new methods are being studied, according to an expert on the subject.
“There is more research under way to fine-tune these treatments and to explore others, with the goal being to get folks beyond their traumas and to have a perspective on them,” said Dr. Jonathan Farrell-Higgins, a psychologist and head of the stress disorder treatment program at Colmery-O’Neil Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Topeka.
Farrell-Higgins referred to a treatment known as cognitive processing therapy (CPT), a model that’s been around but that’s been refined.
“It’s designed to help people focus on how they construe the traumatic events that have happened to them so they get a sense of mastery and control over their lives,” he said.
Some veterans need help getting over PTSD symptoms such as blaming themselves for an incident. Others have a severe fear of the world and can’t trust anybody, Farrell-Higgins said. Counselors help them realize that while the world isn’t as safe as once thought, not everyone is a bad guy, he said.
“It’s a more modern way of saying, ‘I need to be more careful and more conscious of the world around me but I can live my life and I don’t have to be fearful of all people,’” Farrell-Higgins said.
Counselors take the PTSD victim through certain steps that help them identify symptoms that are being avoided and how they are avoiding them. Some victims turn to substance abuse to suppress memories. Once the victim realizes those symptoms, other issues can be addressed.
“We help people ask themselves some very challenging questions: ‘What is the evidence for the way you look at things? Are you taking situations out of context?’” Farrell-Higgins explained.
CPT also gets into issues of safety, self-esteem, trust, power and control in a 12-session therapy, Farrell-Higgins said.
VA personnel are also being trained in a new treatment called “prolonged exposure,” Farrell-Higgins said. It involves repeated exposure to a traumatic experience in a victim’s mind. The anxiety goes down as it is recalled in a more relaxed state. The power of the memory declines, Farrell-Higgins said.
Progress being made in PTSD treatment is exciting, Farrell-HIggins said.
“I think the field is going nowhere but forward,” he said. “The VA is very organized now in getting folks trained in the new models and then expanding the old ones.”