Group offers free PTSD help for veterans but not enough are signing up for it

Simple Health

AUSTIN (KXAN) — June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness month and according to the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs, at least half of Americans have had a traumatic event in their lives.

Of that group, one in 10 men and two in 10 women will develop PTSD. That number can be especially true for military veterans who have witnessed combat and exposed to traumatic experiences.

READ ALSO: Austin holds 2 town hall meetings focusing on Veterans Needs Assesment Tuesday and Wednesday

A new therapy at Seton aims to help, it’s called the Veteran Restore Program, created and led by Dr. Valerie Rosen, a psychiatrist at Ascension Seton.

“I think there are so many people who struggle with PTSD and they are thinking like we used to think which is that PTSD is a life disorder and that is no longer accurate,” Dr. Rosen said.

At the end of the six-week Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), Dr. Rosen says half of the enrolled veterans complete the program with significant improvement and no longer meet the criteria for PTSD.

But not enough veterans are signing up for the free program.

“The largest challenge, in general, is convincing patients that it’s OK to come in and talk about their trauma. It’s one of the hardest things to do because it seems counter-intuitive. ‘Why do I want to talk about the very thing that’s causing me issues?’ However, once you talk about it, it frees up a lot of things and it doesn’t control you or own you in the same way,” explains Dr. Rosen.

She designed the Veteran Restore Program to include Cognitive Processing Therapy, which has the person look at the event, feel the emotions about what happened and help them recognize that the meaning they ascribe to the trauma is not always correct, she said.

“For example, people tend to blame themselves for trauma because it gives us the illusion of control if we feel it’s our fault but a lot of times that blame is completely erroneous and that is what keeps PTSD symptoms alive,” Dr. Rosen said.

The group also engages in resilience yoga classes which Dr. Rosen says is meant to help the person regain control of their mind and body taken over by trauma.

“We often feel you don’t just need to process it in a mental way, but sometimes trauma can be trapped in the body in terms of a fight or flight situation where people feel that their body hijacks them,” she said.

The veterans in the program take two trips together as a group. One is to the Blanton Museum Art because Dr. Rosen says the private museum tour helps the veteran focus on what’s in front of them.

“They can’t have their back to the wall which often people who experience trauma prefer.”

The group also takes a trip to work with horses which is aimed at teaching them to manage stress.

“Horses are very special animals, they are prey animals,” she said. “They are very in tune when a person is stressed because it’s protective for them. So if a veterans goes out there and says they are having a fine day but internally they are feeling stress the horse will not go near them.”

The program funded by the Texas Veteran’s Family Alliance and Seton is valued at $7,000 per patient but is free for all veterans no matter the discharge status.

Up to 10 veterans are allowed per group and meet four days a week, for three hours a day over a six-week period.

To enroll in the program call 512 324-2039. Transportation is also provided free of charge.

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