Saturday, May 22, 2010

Coming Home To Love / A Heart Centered Approach To Vets With PTSD


[ Click on to enlarge ]
Ryan "Doc" Krebbs playing cards with buddies at The Magic House. / FRONTLINE'S The Wounded Platoon.

Trained to kill, over medicated and many with symptoms of PTSD or TBI ~ veterans are constantly recycled into Iraq and Afghanistan and come home to a VA rehabilitation system that is clinically focused versus healing oriented.This leaves many veterans feeling depressed, alone, incapable of love and without a choice. A heart centered approach finally brings these soldiers home to love: Allen L Roland , Ph.D

In The Wounded Platoon, FRONTLINE reveals a military mental health system overwhelmed with soldiers suffering psychological injuries from the surge ~ at Fort Carson the rate of PTSD diagnosis has risen 4,000 percent since 2002 ~ as well as the widespread use of prescription psychiatric drugs both at home and in combat. "Everybody was on Ambien, everybody. It was hard to find somebody that wasn't taking Ambien," says the 3rd Platoon's medic, Ryan "Doc" Krebbs. "It helps you sleep, and it also f***s you up. It gets you pretty high." After returning home, Krebbs was also prescribed the antipsychotic medication Seroquel, on which he would purposefully overdose in a suicide attempt. "I thought that my time in this place was over, and I'd already done what I was supposed to do, and I didn't want to live anymore."

Before the Iraq war, American soldiers in combat zones did not take psychiatric medications, but by the time of the surge more than 20,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq were taking antidepressants and sleeping pills. These drugs enable the Army to keep soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder on the battlefield. "What I use medications for is to treat very specific side effects," Army psychiatrist Col. George Brandt tells FRONTLINE. "I don't want somebody in a helplessness mode in a combat environment. I want to make sure I don't have someone with suicidal thoughts where everyone is armed."

In other words, fear based medication where the soldier is numbed out to psychic pain and put into a combat situation where overreaction becomes the norm ~ but many times this also continues when they return home. Since the Iraq war began, a total of 17 soldiers from Fort Carson have been charged with or convicted of murder, manslaughter or attempted murder committed at home in the United States, and 36 have committed suicide.

Being warehoused in Trauma Care Units is also not the answer as over medicated and tranqulized veterans are particularly vulnerable to depression, addiction and suicide.

Identified problem: The continuing high suicide rate of Veterans, even those under VA care, points to the need for an approach that goes beyond treating the symptoms of PTSD to the core issues of unworthiness, inability to love or be loved and a choiceless fear based cycle of anxiety and depression. They have still not come home from the war.


18 Veterans Commit Suicide Each Day
Rick Maze - Staff writer / Army TimesPosted : Monday Apr 26, 2010 8:00:40 EDT
"Troubling new data show there are an average of 950 suicide attempts each month by veterans who are receiving some type of treatment from the Veterans Affairs Department. Seven percent of the attempts are successful, and 11 percent of those who don’t succeed on the first attempt try again within nine months.The numbers, which come at a time when VA is strengthening its suicide prevention programs, show about 18 veteran suicides a day, about five by veterans who are receiving VA care."

Identified Solution: A Heart Centered workshop whose purpose is to penetrate the grey zone of unworthiness and guilt of many PTSD survivors, within a supportive group setting, through inner exploration, deep sharing and heart centered transformation ~ whereas another choice of love, joy and commonality replace inner anger, unworthiness and separateness ~ particularly from people they love.

Substantiation: It is obvious that the symptoms of PTSD are very similar to the symptoms of people being seemingly separated from love whereas deep psychic pain as well as feelings of guilt and unworthiness override the ability to give and receive love.

In March 2005, PBS aired A SOLDIERS HEART where a physician on that show reported that every soldier in Iraq is forever emotionally changed after serving in combat .

This can actually become a hardening of the heart whereas the soldier eventually becomes seemingly incapable of giving and receiving love and retreats into a lonely and impenetrable shell.

So, in essence, this is a Post Traumatic Heart Disorder and many people suffer the same symptoms when they have been rejected, abandoned or hurt in a love relationship.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or violent personal assaults like rape. People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged, and these symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person's daily life. But, I would argue, people can suffer these very same symptoms when they are seemingly separated from love.

As such, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is actually a Heart Disorder where psychic pain, fear and guilt often override joy and the ability to love or be loved.

To many, suicide becomes the only choice, as Dr Gary Kohls writes ~ It is often said that 200,000 Vietnam vets have committed suicide since they came home from the war, although, with 30% of the huge US homeless population being nameless and homeless Vietnam veterans, the precise number is unknown and actually may be larger !

In my experience as a practicing psychotherapist of over 35 years ~ A person will take their own life only if they feel that the dark loveless tunnel of aloneness they exist in is their ONLY CHOICE. My role, as a therapist, is to help bring them to another life enhancing choice ~ and I maintain that cannot be accomplished without awakening their hearts through love. Only then will they begin to see through clearer eyes and realize that they indeed have ANOTHER CHOICE. Only then will they truly be able to finally come home ~ for, in essence, their true inner home is their heart.


Purpose: To penetrate the grey zone of unworthiness and guilt of many PTSD survivors, within a supportive group setting, through inner exploration, deep sharing and heart centered transformation ~ whereas another choice of love, joy and commonality replace inner anger and separateness.

Facilitator: Allen L Roland, Ph.D
Modality: Individual sharing, group exercises, guided visualization and homework.
Duration: Eight weeks / Thursdays 4 to 6 PM / March 11, 2010 to April 29, 2010
Objective: Self-healing and Transformation
Sessions: Eight sessions of two hours duration
Paricipants: Five Vietnam veterans with identified symptoms of PTSD. All had many of these conditions ~ hyper arousal, fear, low energy levels, emotional reactions, anxiety, sleep problems, unworthiness and victim issues. All were married and were hand picked and briefed on this transformation workshop by Salvador Ueda, LSW ~ Concord Readjustment Counseling Service Social Worker ~ who also participated in the group.
Session One - Orientation and Finding the Child Within ourself
I explain my role as a coach and facilitator, and demonstrate how we can use childhood pictures to locate the child within ourself who was not afraid to love or be loved, authentic and not controlled by fear. The intent of this session is to touch the emotionally trapped child within ourself and begin the self-healing process. I accomplish this by sharing my own heart quest to find my trapped inner child and by utilizing the Cycle of Life to graphically illustrate how and why we separate from who we truly are ~ and how our life is a quest to re-unite with our original wholeness and authenticity.
Each participant briefly shares their heart quest. Home work is the life chart.
Session Two - Understanding Your Life as a Quest with a Life chart
This session demonstrates how to use the homework from the first session (creating a Life chart) to retrace the major events and relationships of your life in terms of feelings of love and joy versus feelings of pain and despair. Special emphasis is put on those relationships that profoundly touched your heart. Participants share their life chart with the group.
Homework: Share the life chart with at least three other people outside the group.
Session Three - Taking Accountability for Your Life
The preparation work is now over: You have seen your life as a quest to find and embrace yourself through the Life chart and you are now able to understand the significance of key relationships. This session introduces the crucial victim/accountability exercise. During this exercise, you will feel the heaviness and powerlessness of being a victim, versus the lightness and power of being accountable for the decisions you made that either created or avoided pain with the people you loved. Victim issues with the war are also delt with in this session.
Homework: Take at least three people you resent off the hook.
Session Four - Connecting with the Child Within Yourself
In this session I demonstrate, once we have taken total accountability for our lives, how we are now in a position to communicate with and listen to the innocent child within ourselves. I utilize a guided visualization to accomplish this step, which includes questions that you ask the child within yourself. I also clearly demonstrate that the most important step in this self-healing process is taking responsibility for love, in that we have probably felt the deepest pain with the people we have loved the most. As such, taking accountability for that love accelerates the self-healing process.
Homework: Share the child with others
Session Five - Open Your heart; There are no "Buts" or "What Ifs" with Love
I guide you in visualizations that help you realize how many people you have loved and have loved you. Your homework is to contact and thank these people for being gifts in your life ~ regardless of the risks of this contact. There are no "buts" or "what ifs" as far as completing this assignment. You must begin to realize that you have loved and been loved during your lifetime quest to find yourself. Gratefulness is the most powerful antidote for resentment and unworthiness.
Homework: Thank at least 10 people
Session Six - The Death Exercise
You are guided in a profound death exercise which helps you to experience the degree to which the people closest to you really know you. The exercise actually simulates your death and your resultant shock of knowing that perhaps you did not truly share yourself with the people closest to you.
Your homework is to fully open your heart with the people who are closest to you, as if you, or they, were going to die tomorrow.
Session Seven - Many are Called, Few Listen, and Fewer Still Respond.
This session shows that we are continually being called from within on the path of the heart, but few listen and fewer still respond. It is in this session that you begin to fully understand that you have been called to the inner journey of the soul, through love, versus the outer journey of the ego, through Fear. This session ends with an visualization exercise in which you realize that the most precious gift you have always wanted is yourself.
Homework: Experience sharing that gift with others.
Session Eight - Integration and celebration
This last session is really a celebration, for you now know and have experienced another choice of behavior and within an empowering and supportive group setting.
This is the time for feedback, questions and preparation for sharing your healing heart outside the safety of the group.


1. Did this workshop meet your expectations?
Al: "This workshop exceeded my expectations . I could not have imagined that seven sessions could so profoundly change my perspective of my life. I feel like I have a choice now to continure healing myself."
George: This workshop more than met my expectations and the process influenced me greatly.
2. Did you feel physically and mentally better after completing the workshop ?
Tom: " I am mentally alot better. I still have problems but see them for what they really are and deal with them. "
3. What did you learn about yourself ?
Thomas: " I learned that all these years that I have feared everything that is normal . It has been such a punishment that I can't believe I almost destroyed myself and other people because of it. I can now love and feel good, enjoy life and eliminate the fear and mistrust that almost destroyed me."
4. What did you enjoy the most about the workshop ?
Barry: " The resulting feelings after sharing my innermost secrets and the intense feeling of exhilaration and relief. "
5. Did the Wounded Heart Workshop improve the quality of your life?
Al: " This workshop did more to improve my life than any program or counseling that I have ever experienced. It changed the set point from which I viewed myself and the world. I can now see that I have a choice to make every day and all the time."
6. What was the most meaningful aspect of the workshop ?
Thomas: " Finding myself, seeing the inner child or self and knowing that he has been there all along. Losing the ego and finding the inner joy that I lost decades ago. I am a different man and better for it. It was finding the inner state of consciousness and completeness of myself through love."
Tom: "Just seeing the look on the other Vets faces when they met the inner child "
George : " Dealing with myself and the love of others ~ surrender, surrender, surrender ~ so hard and now so easy. "
7. Did you overcome any fears in this workshop ?
Barry : " Yes, I overcame my fear of being loved "
8. Would you recommend this workshop to others ?
Thomas: "Yes, If anyone has the problems I had or even worse, this workshop will help them immensely. No one should put themselves through the length of pain and torment that I put myself through for the last 40 years."
Tom: Yes, Whether you are able to accept the inner child or not ~ you realize it's your choice and you don't have to be a victim "
9. Do you have any further comments on the workshop or leaders?
Al: " Allen Roland is amazing in his ability to communicate at a very intimate level with this group of veterans. I have total trust in his intentions to guide us to a better understanding of ourselves. Sal Ueda made sure we were prepared to start the workshop and then participated with us. It was clear that Allen and Sal knew what they were doing and gave us the confidence to move through our fears "
Thomas: " I had been going to Sal's group for 8 months and then Allen was introduced by Sal and we started this 8 week workshop. I must admit I was scared to death at first, but after three weeks and his homework I had some of the most profound experiences I have ever had in my life. I consider myself a 95% better man and I will always have a place in my heart for each of these men and what they did for me and my soul."

Salvador Ueda's evaluation as a participant.
1. Did this workshop meet your expectations ? Absolutely. This workshop exceeded my expectation. I understood the capability of human beings to heal. But to witness this healing process unraveling before my eyes in just 7 sessions is both impressive and a blessed experience. 2. Do you feel physically and mentally better after completing the workshop? The workshop reinforced my belief in the beauty and love of the human individual awaiting only to be acknowledged and embraced. The workshop intensified my compassion to the work and my faith in the human ability for real change with greater meaning and purpose for living.
3. What did you learn about yourself ? I saw and realized that my life has been a quest in connecting with my true self. That I have been relying on my inner wisdom as guidance of living. I had this gift of being myself, but have been rather reserved. I am more confident with less fear in expressing and being my true self.
4.. What did you enjoy the most about the workshop? The deep respect and genuine heartfelt bonding and nurturing occurring amongst the group members. Secondly, the imagery and visualization work in connecting with the inner soul.
5. Did the Wounded Heart Workshop improve the quality of your life? It reaffirmed the quality of my life. That the only thing I have is myself and that it is connected to all others. The workshop allowed me to fully embrace this gift and share it with others.
6. What was the most meaningful aspect of the workshop? To witness and see the burden of fear, quilt and pain of each group participate lifted. To see the youthfulness return in their eyes, faces and demeanors. It is a blessed experience to see the joy return to these war Veterans after years of despair. It is simply humbling and a beautiful sight.
7. Did you overcome any fears in this workshop? Yes. I had a slight fear with those in authority to fully express my inner desire. I have been empowered in expressing and advocating my inner truth.
8. Would you recommend this workshop to others?
Healing the Wounded heart is a must if healing is truly one's desire. For anyone who has been a victim of life trauma, paralyzed and disconnected from his soul, healing of the wounded heart is the only truth to one's own salvation. Whatever modality, if one does not journey down to and through the heart, there will never be "freedom".
9. Do you have any further comments about the workshop or its leaders? The Wish for healing is deep within our inner desires only to often be strangled by an armor of fear. It must be penetrated directly, honestly, and with genuine care. And it must be done without fear. Allen Roland with his gift of seeing through the heart and through others deepest fears, without fear himself, is the key to unlocking the locked hearts of veterans in grief and despair. It is only through unlocking the locked heart that we discover joy awaiting and rejoicing below the armor.Therapy is never meant to be a life sentence nor one of dependence and resignation to living without joy.
My Final Final observations as the group facilitator
I have done profound work with Vietnam Vets with PTSD ~ see FRANK'S STORY / A PTSD SURVIVOR CONQUERS UNWORTHINESS whereas, utilizing my heart centered seven sessions, Frank emerged from the grey zone of denial, unworthiness and separation and began to experience another choice of love, celebration and joy. However, it was the reconnecting to the love of his daughter during these sessions that opened his heart to another choice.

My desire has always been to do this with a group of veterans who wanted to not only face their fears but take responsibility for love in their life. To finally come home from the wars they fought in.
The Yountville Healing The Wounded Heart Workshop afforded me the opportunity to prove that PTSD is really Post Traumatic Heart Disorder for all of these veterans made a major shift in their physical and mental well being through this heart centered group process. In essence, I trained them how to love versus how to kill and they began to heal themselves in the process.
They all inspired each other. Note Tom's comment regarding the Most Meaningful aspect of the workshop ~ "Just seeing the look on the other Vet's faces when they met the inner child. "

We owe our Veterans a heart centered approach in their rehabilitation process and the Healing The Wounded Heart eight week workshop offers that ~ and so much more.

It's been a month since this first Healing The Wounded heart workshop ended, along witrh my participation, but they are still meeting every Thursday with Salvador Ueda and sharing their self healing journey with each other. Sal tells me that they are still glowing and celebrating their new choice in life. In many ways, they have finally come home.
We are now ready for our second eight week workshop and this will include Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Allen L Roland, Ph.D

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Freelance Alternative Press Online columnist and psychotherapist Allen L Roland is available for comments, interviews, speaking engagements and private consultations ( )

Allen L Roland is a practicing psychotherapist, author and lecturer who also shares a daily political and social commentary on his
weblog and website He also guest hosts a monthly national radio show TRUTHTALK on


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