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. 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 of 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.

You can find more information as well as doctors trained in EMDR in your area at the EMDR web site.

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 because 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 home 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, and they told us of what they did. Two generations whos experiences were seperated by over 30 years, sat in a building together 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!

Ya’ll be sure to watch the LA Times, NY Times, Chattanooga Times, NPR and Dan Rather Show over the next few days, weeks, and months. I know they are all working on things about the contractors.

13 Comments on “PTSD Conference – Day 2

  1. Upinsmoke, as with most illnesses that don’t have a cure, but have instead things that can make them manageable, we all hope that one day, a cure WILL be found. Until then, all we can do, is to continue offering the services that are being made available to help people like yourself suffering from PTSD.

    On another note, Upinsmoke, THANK YOU for your service to our Country and your Sacrifices. You are NOT forgotten.

  2. Agree totally Terri. In fact I almost used your thought process and compared PTSD to high blood pressure. I never said PTSD could not be managed and the sufferers helped in being able to manage it. Therapy today at the VA and elsewhere focuses on Managing symptoms. NOT CURING symptoms.

    However in the article this was stated which seems to indicate quite frankly a cure.

    The nature of 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.

    No I take that back. It quite frankly says “WE CAN CURE PTSD.”

    Also this was indicated which flat out said “WE can cure PTSD.”

    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.

    This article is a double edged sword for me. I love the work you guys are doing and praise you for your efforts. But in the future please be careful about claims you make. Having my own blogg elsewhere I have overtime realized how important it is that WHAT I SAY is not as important as HOW I SAY IT. I even have that in a plaque over my computer monitor.

    I really feel like the bad guy in this conversation because I know how much you guys and gals are trying to help. I totally appreciate your work and I would never do or say anything to detract or take away from that. However Please keep in mind How you say something is as important as what your trying to say.

  3. Upinsmoke, there are many illnesses, both physical and psychological that have no “cure”, but only things that can make it where the illness can be lived with and managed. Take diabetes for instance. I’m sure each and every person who suffers from that disease would LOVE to hear that a cure had been found, however, that hasn’t happened and diabetes has been known to mankind for many years. It’s NOT curable, BUT it is manageable to the point of not interfering with a person’s life. Another would be bipolar disorder. It’s not an illness that is curable, but with the right medication and treatment, it can become manageable and not interfere with a person’s life.

  4. Oh and no you didnt hurt me. You got my hopes up as I read it and then I got deflated quite a bit once I talked to the Drs. at the hopsital.

    I’ve even had a Med Student come and treat me last year. She got discouraged when her sure fire treatment method was a total flop. Her Guru Professor was convinced that Exposure therapy would work on me.

    I didnt mean to discourage you or your work. Keep up the good work. My anger (PTSD symptom number 1000) just exploded when I read the article and made hasty judgements of what you were really trying to say. My first post was in response to what I was perceiving you to say that the VA is now claiming to cure PTSD with EMDR. That made me angry because WHY WAS I NOT FIRST IN LINE????

  5. Now Terri you are getting to the crux of the argument when you said these treatments can and do help you to be able to live with and manage the symptoms so that they dont have to interfere with your life.

    Every treatment I have had has been designed to manage symptoms. To live with PTSD…..NOT CURE IT.

    I appreciate your work and your efforts. EMDR has been around for quite sometime now and yes the VA embraces it but they do not embrace it as a cure. IF ptsd could be cured, the VA most certainly would throw all us ptsd sufferers into rehab, treat us with emdr and take away our benefits.

    Id be the first in line too.

  6. Upinsmoke, some sufferers of PTSD may have to live with the effects of it for the rest of their lives, HOWEVER, these treatments CAN and DO help you to be able to live with and manage those symptoms so that they don’t have to totally interfere with your life. I’ve posted articles about PTSD here before and I deal with it on a daily basis in my job on a military installation. Thankfully, there have been advances in treating PTSD and it CAN become manageable. For some, it may take more than 6-12 sessions, for others it won’t. Each case is different and how it affects each person suffering from it’s effects is different. Right now I’m doing a weekly article on different aspects of PTSD at A Soldier’s Mind and coverning not only the effects but also some of the treatments, such as EMDR that are proving successful.

  7. Upinsmoke,
    I am truly sorry that I got you hopes up if this will not work for you. when the Vietnam Vet made the same statements that you did, Dr Hurley said that PTSD is not long a life long disorder. I don’t remember him saying that the sooner you are treated the better the results.

    You don’t have to answer this question, but are your doctors going to try it and see if it will at lest help ease things a bit for ya?

    I know PTSD can affect your life. My son has it, and several friends have it. I am truly sorry if I hurt you in any way, by what I reported in my post. That really was not my intention.

    I will keep you in my prayers!

  8. Please understand that the VFW 1733 donated their building to us only after I went their and spoke with them on the lack of help that the American Contractors are not getting coming back from Iraq. Many of them did not attend this meeting, but were on the sidelines giving much needed support to them. AS they truely understand what it is like after returning home “As one vet told me,” there was nothing when we got home after nam” I will say that the Vets were truely very supportive to their fellow American. I am glad to help where I can and only wish there were other American’s out there to help as well.

  9. Let me tone down my rhetoric a bit. Sorry for the outburst above but I have been all over America treating my PTSD trying to get “better” and every doctor I have dealt with has said yes you do have to deal with it the rest of your life. Their is no magic pill.

    After further discussing this with two PTSD Experts at my local VA today where I had them read your article they pointed out to me that there is some research to suggest that catching the trauma victims quick is a plus and that EMDR is a movement in the PTSD field that fully believes they can indeed cure you. However there is very little evidence that EMDR can “CURE” Vietnam Vets or even Trauma victims that have had multiple traumas. Many report euphoric feelings of IM cured only to come back a few years later and NO they werent cured after all.

    They then called into the meeting a Doctor who is fully trained and a strong believer in EMDR and he explained how it worked and his take on it was that this conference is being a bit ambitious in claiming they can cure anyone and everyone of ptsd with emdr.

    I read your article in the morning and had an appointment with my Dr. later that morning all excited about EMDR only to be fully deflated and depressed. More then anything I wanted that MAGIC PILL. Alas its not to be. This is not an indictment of EMDR and it does work for “SOME” it is however a summary of what three doctors at my VA told me as they read thru your article.

  10. Having suffered from PTSD for the last 36 years and being 100 percent disabled for it from the VA and having spent time in PTSD Clinics in Denver and California and having had therapy for years I find Absolutely amazing and pardon my language but a total crock of BS the fact that you can heal someone of PTSD in 6 to 12 sessions.

    This smacks of the VA attempting to totally absolve the VA of its NEED to care for returning veterans with a MAGIC PILL.

    The VA should be called on this. This is just not right. No one is going to get over PTSD with a magic pill a few treatments and a wave of the hand.

    I’m sorry but the conference might have been nice and lovely but the findings being announced is the magician waving the hand in a desperate attempt to prevent the VA from being inundated with PTSD Victims from the last 5 years of war.

    This is plain and unadulterated Crap. I have talked to 2 Doctors both of who are experts in the field of PTSD and they are laughing at the 4 treatments being expounded on here as manuevering room to prevent breaking the system.

    If you dont want to break the system pull out of Iraq and dont have any more wars. Dont make up some research that gives the traumatized vets a magic pill and then tells them now go away and be a good little F^^^ed up citizen.

  11. Thanks Cindy for keeping us updated. It sounds like Day 2 was very rewarding and a healing experience for all of you. I’m really interested to hear more.

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