Taking a Long Walk: Wilderness Therapy for Veterans

23 Feb 2017

Several outdoor adventure and wilderness therapy companies and organizations are offering specialized outdoor adventures for veterans. These can range from fishing and camping weekends to rafting and wild river trips, to Outward Bound for Vets. Some are designed as a quick relaxing getaway, others are man versus nature and full of an adrenaline rush. One wilderness program, Warrior Expeditions, is different, and offers the support for vets to take a long walk.

The first man to walk the entire length of the Appalachian trail from Georgia to Maine was taking a long hike to recover from the memories of war. Earl Shaffer decided to walk off his war, to get the sights and sounds and memories out of his head and heart, and find out who he was. He wanted to discover how the war had changed him, and what he had left of the person he was before. This was in 1948, and it took him four months of walking to complete the trail.

When Sean Gobin returned from multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, he also took to the Appalachian Trail, and found that the time, the quiet, and the act of being in nature gave him time to process memories and issues he had kept buried. The process reminded him of the way military people used to walk home from wars, or take long slow boats. Those long trips home gave people time to process and transition from military to civilian life. With modern transportation and the quick turn-around today, veterans can go from a battlefield across the world to their kid's elementary school within a week.

Sean decided to start Warrior Expeditions because of the benefits he found for himself in the long hike. The organization provides support of several kinds for veterans who want to make a long hike. They offer gear and equipment, a small stipend, food and supply restocking along the trail, and support partners in small towns along the trail, veterans and their families who host hikers for a hot meal and a night in a bed.

Since Warrior Expeditions first developed their Warrior Hike program, they've expanded to supporting hikes on long trails across the country, from the Pacific Coast Trail, the Continental Divide, and others. They've also started river expeditions, a long canoe trip down the Mississippi, and long biking trips for vets with disabilities.

The support is very necessary for the trips to be successful, but the true value of the expeditions comes with the time, and the quiet. Being outside in nature with a like-minded friend or just yourself, with only the immediacy of the trail, you have time to think, or not think and just feel. 

 

For more veteran's topics, please contact us.

Is VA Healthcare Worth It?

16 Feb 2017

The Veterans Health Administration is the largest healthcare organization in the country if not the world. According to the VA:

The mission of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is "to serve the needs of America's veterans by providing primary care, specialized care, and related medical and social support services."

The VHA does not have another mission. There is no other agency or organization with that mission. Can the VA be trusted with veteran’s healthcare?

We hear of scandal after scandal at one VA facility after another. Veterans wait months for an appointment. We hear about veterans dying waiting to get care. We even hear about veterans dying on VA property and not being found for hours. The veteran suicide rate is reported to be through the roof. Veterans have killed themselves on VA property. What’s going on?

Some veterans and politicians have asked to privatize the VA or to allow veterans to get their wherever they want. Veteran’s organizations fight back and support the VA system of care. All our nation’s veteran’s organizations support the continued availability of VA provided healthcare. They argue that privatizing veteran’s healthcare will dilute it and not provide the expertise of many treatment programs available only in VA facilities. The consistency of access to experts in veteran’s care would be lost. The VA is a significant provider of training for virtually every medical specialty. Our entire nation would suffer without it. 

The decision about using the VA as a sole or primary source of healthcare is each veteran’s decision. Many veterans do not have a choice. Many veterans don’t have the financial option to get their healthcare anywhere else. Veterans must continue to depend on the VA to provide the best healthcare available and the government and veteran’s organizations to hold them accountable. There are many individuals, organizations, and political advocates fighting every day to insure the VA is there to provide the best care for our veterans. Should you have difficulty accessing your benefits or getting the healthcare or services you have earned, contact our experienced legal team for assistance.

Evidence Based Treatment for PTSD

09 Feb 2017

Evidence based treatments are those that have been studied, researched, and developed over time. Clinicians that use these treatments are trained and certified to practice them. These treatments have been used successfully on many veterans and civilians who have experienced a traumatic event and are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

All the listed treatment protocols include an educational component. The treating clinician will also provide relaxation training and help their client learn processes and utilize resources to remain safe during the treatment process and beyond. 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye movement and focus help clients address specific traumatic incidents. EMDR uses desensitizing and reprocessing techniques while simultaneously using eye movement and focusing while the client is telling their trauma story.

Stress Inoculation Training (SIT)

This treatment focuses on help with coping skills. Relaxation training is an important component to address anxiety and fear. Breathing exercises are also learned as an important part of relaxation. Assertiveness training is used to help clients learn how to practically express emotions

Prolonged Exposure (PE)

One of the symptoms of PTSD is avoidance. PE involves telling one’s trauma story repeatedly over time. Part of the treatment also includes learning how and practicing reintroduction into those places and events which are triggering even though not traumatic. 

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

CPT focuses on writing about one’s traumatic experience. Often those who have a traumatic experience become focused on beliefs about the trauma and its meaning that become distorted when experiencing life after the trauma. This treatment helps challenge assumptions and helps the client recognize and correct distorted thoughts and feelings.

It’s important to remember that each of these treatment programs requires intensive training for the clinicians who provide it. Veterans seeking and/or receiving these treatments should only seek treatment from providers who are trained in these practices.

Contact our experienced firm to help with your VA claim for disability and/or access to the treatment you earned and need.

New PTSD Treatment Studies -- Transcendental Meditation, Sleep, and Ecstasy

02 Feb 2017

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is experienced by a large percentage of military veterans. Its symptoms include flashbacks of traumatic experiences, stress, anxiety, depression, and more.

A new study, as reported by Medical News Today, shows that transcendental meditation can reduce the symptoms of PTSD. The study involved 181 male prisoners from the Oregon State Correctional Institution and Oregon State Penitentiary. These prisoners had undergone traumatic experiences and were considered a high risk for PTSD. The study compared those from the group who underwent a four-month transcendental meditation program of 20-minute sessions twice a day to those who hadn’t.

Symptoms were evaluated by using the Trauma Symptoms Checklist and the Perceived Stress Scale. The results? The meditation sessions reduced trauma and stress by 47 percent.

In another recent study, also reported by Medical News Today, it was found that sleep can help reduce flashbacks of traumatic experiences.

In related news, the FDA studies of how the MDMA drug, commonly known as Ecstasy, can help treat PTSD are nearing completion. They have been going on since 2000 and are now in Phase 3 of the studies, which is the last step before a drug can be approved for pharmaceutical uses. All research until now points to the drug being approved when the studies are completed. Ecstasy saturates the brain with serotonin, which helps calm a person down and make them feel at peace with experiences they have gone through.

For more information on PTSD, and for help with receiving benefits for disability claims, just contact us.

1