Updated on February 14, 2007
PTSD Conference – Day 2
On Saturday, February 10, 2007, in Knoxville, TN., the VFW Post 1733 donated it building to the Civilian Contractors from Iraq and Afghanistan for a conference on PTSD. The doors were open to any and all Veterans, from any War as well as the civilian contractors. The conference was held to educate and inform all of what PTSD was and the treatments available. We even had a Vietnam Veteran that has been suffering from PTSD ever since he came home. It was hard for him to believe that it may be possible that he could be healed, that he didn’t have to live with this another day.
Dr. EC Hurley and his wife, who is a nurse, were the guest speakers. He is the director of the Centers for PTSD and Combat Trauma in Clarksville, TN. We were given a 3 page handout with information about symptoms and treatments.Â I will give you a few excerpts from it.
It is estimated that 18-24% of combat soldiers develop PTSD; this percentage is likely to be higher for civilian contractors with no combat training who are exposed to IED’s and such on a regular basis. PTSD “hijacks” the brain’s functioning so combat trauma memories are continually relived with all the associated senses and emotions.
Persons with posttraumatic stress disorder tend to exhibit symptoms classified in the areas of hyper-vigilance, avoidance behaviors, and re-experiencing of traumatic events.
The Relevance of Therapy
For the past wars, combat related PTSD was viewed primarily as a hopeless disorder. Vietnam era veterans with PTSD were told, “You’ll never get over your PTSD. It is something you have to learn to live with.” Times have changes; advances in treatment have been made. Effective treatments of PTSD have emerged since the Vietnam era.We need to change our thinking about PTSD. It is now treatable, in most cases with short term therapy. Persons no longer have to spend the rest of their lives struggling with PTSD.
Current focus on competency-based psychotherapy requires the most effective treatment modalities be researched and used in the treatment of PTSD. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was developed as a treatment modality less that 20 years ago. It is one of the most highly researched treatment modalities for the treatment of PTSD.
Efficacy of EMDR
The Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) now recommends four therapies as being “A” level effective for PTSD including cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, stress inoculation training, and EMDR. EMDR is the only psychotherapy in which brain imaging has documented the improvement of brain functioning within a few sessions.
The nature ofÂ EMDR treatment offers hope that PTSD can often be resolved with a brief number of sessions. Research, using EMDR, has indicated that single incident combat trauma can normally be resolved in 3 to 6 sessions in 77 – 100% of the time. Multiple experiences of combat trauma normally require more than 12 sessions.
PTSD is no longer viewed as a life-long disorder with treatment cost being insurmountable and unfordable. EMDR offers treatment resolution varying from a few sessions to a few months for many persons.
There were many reporters at the conference to hear the stories from the contractors that were able to attend. “Dan Rather Reports” was there both Friday and Saturday. They did some private interviews on Friday with several of the guys and then on Saturday, they had us gather for a ’round table’ to talk about what we were all dealing with emotionally and physically. I was told by the producer, Silvia, that this will air sometime in March. (I hope someone records it becauseÂ I will be in basic at that time.)
This was a very emotional hour. I think we all had a tear in our eyes for ourselves and each other. All of us had either been shot, blown up, seen our buddies blown up or shot, or watched them be drug out of their trucks and executed. We talked about the ambush, IED, or rocket that changed our lives. We cried for those that will not come home, or didn not come homeÂ on their own two feet, or for those that did, but couldn’t stand the pain in their heads and their hearts and committed suicide.
After the LA Times, NY Times, Chattanooga Times Free Press, NPR and Dan Rather Show was finished with the major part of ther interviews, and Dr. EC Hurley’s speech, we were able to kick back and realax. We exchanged ‘war stories’ with the Veterans in the VFW. I have to say that we were all treated like family there. We didn’t have to worry about people looking down their noses at us, or calling us names. We talked about what we went through,Â and they told us of what they did. Two generations whos experiences were seperated by over 30 years, sat in a building togetherÂ and shared a comeradery that only those that have been in the “shit” could know. I will nerver forget that day, or the men of the VFW Post. They made me feel at home more than I think I have felt in the almost 9 months that I have been home.
Along with the VFW donateing thier place for the conference, Dr EC Hurley coming to speek free of charge and offering pro-bono services to those that attended, the local band VALT, donated their time and talent to the event. With misic from the seventies to today, they entertained us all. (I even got a bit worn out by the Vets from the VFW wanting to dance with me all the time!)This conference was not catered, and nothing was set up in advance for us. Several of us got together at Jana Crowder’s house and shared in the cooking for the exent. I slaved over a pot of spaggetti while some of the guys hepled make pinwheels. The day of the conference, many of the contractors showed up early to setup and arange the VFW hall before it was to offically begin. Not only was it contractors and their families doing for them selves, even some of the local Knoxville people donated their time and money to help out. Mary, a grandmother from Knoxville, read in the local paper about the conference and offered to help. She spent some of her own money and 2 days helping with the shopping and cooking. THANKS MARY, we love you!