General Peter Chiarelli, the Army's No. 2 officer, acknowledges there are more effective ways to treat PTSD than just drugs ~ a fact that I have been proving with my heart centered Healing The Wounded Heart workshops for over a year with veterans with PTSD: Allen L Roland
Megan Sully, The national Journal, recently interviewed Gen. Peter Chiarelli , the Army's No. 2 officer, who has long been an advocate for soldiers suffering from the invisible wounds of war ~ such as PTSD and TBI. Here are some pertinent excerpts of his important interview with the National Journal;
NJ: Statistics show that more members of the military kill themselves than die in combat. Has the Army made progress in this area?
CHIARELLI: “I definitely think that we have made progress, but we're fighting an uphill battle. The underlying cause, the stress on the force, the things that are causing the stress on the force, still remain when you have operational-tempo levels that are at what they are right now, especially after 10 years of conflict.”
NJ: The Army has long had a stigma about mental health.
CHIARELLI: “Not the Army, not the military. It's everybody. I believe that the stigma associated with behavioral health issues is something that is shared by the general public. We're just admitting it. And what the Army's trying to do internal to itself is to change that culture. We have a lot of folks who are very focused on the mission who don't want to let their buddies down. Sometimes that gets in the way of seeking the help that they want and need.”
NJ: You have expressed concern about the level of research into post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. What worries you?
CHIARELLI: “We do not know how to treat post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury with the same kind of assurance that we know how to treat what I call the mechanical injuries of this war. The science is just not there. There is a lot of wonderful, very important research going on. The problem is if you're an operator like me who likes to fix things quickly. It takes a long time.”
NJ: Is the military's medical culture changing to address these problems?
CHIARELLI: “There's no doubt that we've changed. We've totally done a 180. But have we done enough? No. I want to do more, quicker. I want to have more of these secrets unlocked faster. I want to understand what drugs we should use to treat these symptoms, if we should use any drugs at all. I want to look into alternative pain management. We are finding there are other ways to handle pain that are more effective and allow a person to feel a lot better than throwing a bagful of drugs at them.”
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And therein lies my point ~ there are most definitely other effective and proven ways to handle PTSD other than throwing a bagful of drugs at them and one of them is the heart centered Healing The Wounded Heart workshops I am facilitating with Veterans with PTSD in Northern California.
I have long felt and have now proved that PTSD is really Post Traumatic Heart Disorder for a common symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the inability to give or receive love ~ which can obviously apply to non veterans who have also suffered significant loss or emotional childhood and/or adult pain.
I have demonstrated that only after the heart is opened can true self healing occur for only then does the client (veterans or otherwise) truly want to heal. Using the premise that what is deepest within us is love (not anger) and utilizing an action oriented approach to face and go through their fears ~ these veterans, soon discover that beneath their pain, anger and shame is not only love and joy but most importantly their true authentic self.
The purpose then of the Healing the Wounded Heart Workshops is to penetrate the grey zone of guilt, aloneness and unworthiness, that many War Veterans diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) experience, and this is done within a supportive group setting through heart centered self exploration, group sharing, guided visualization and action oriented homework ~ where love and joy eventually overcome fear and separation.
I call each one of these 8 week (once a week) workshops The Band of Brothers and five of them have already been completed since early 2010 and Band of Brothers #6 will be completed in mid July of this year.
Using Band of Brothers #5 as an example ~ 21 PTSD symptoms were included on the evaluation survey and the veterans were asked to rate their level on the 1-10 scale ( with 1 being “ Very Poor “ and 10 being “ No Problem” for each of the PTSD conditions Before and After the workshop. Here are the results ~ with an average symptom improvement of 58%.
Symptoms After workshop % Improvements
Sleep Problem 67%
Trouble breathing 15%
Emotional Numbing 74%
Suicidal Ideations 41%
Intrusive Memories 58%
Super alert issues 58%
Concentration issues 55%
Feeling Joy 75%
Fear of intimacy 63%
Physical pain 36%
Emotional pain 65%
The figures speak for themselves but the one that leaps out at me is the same one I see with my individual clients ~ and that is the 75% improvement in Joy and Gratitude for these veterans who have not only survived the ultimate firefight of battling fear on the journey to their heart but are now experiencing the delight of not only being themselves but the joy that they are truly healing themselves.
Here are two participants comments from their workshop evaluation; "I have progressed farther in the workshop’s 8 weeks than I have in 25 years of on-and off private therapy. I've been given a very informative look at myself. I understand much more about my own experiences. So many answers to so many questions. I feel alive! Gaining a different perspective on life helps me to see my true self. It's nice to feel love and a sense of self-worth"
"My quick temper and bouts with anger are gone. My dreams are no longer violent and I have not flown out of bed since the workshop. I am able to fall asleep and remain asleep. My relationships with my wife and family have improved immensely. The comradeship that grew with the other participants was wonderful. I feel very strongly that the “ Healing The wounded Heart “ workshop should be added to the VA’s inventory of most effective tools used in re-adjustment counseling to combat the life destroying effects of PTSD.”
There can be no more excuses for the VA to not fund a heart centered approach to working with Veterans with PTSD which is now being privately funded by the California Veterans Support foundation, legion Posts such as Jack London Post 489 in Sonoma, California and local Vietnam support groups like VVA Chapter 702 in Napa, California.
If combat veterans are responding positively to these once a week eight week action oriented heart centered workshops ~ it’s time for the VA to open the door to alternative healing methodologies which the rest of the country is already acknowledging, supporting and experiencing.
Sal Ueda, LSW, and Adjustment counselor at the Concord Vet Center commented on General Chiarelli’s article ~ “ Unless we finally realize that true peace is never solved by War and stop continuing to use young men to help resolve world differences, we will continue the consequences of the "rude awakening" of wars, with its wounding of the heart. Here in our Vet Center, I have come to realize the human quest to reclaim detached spirituality through our heart centered approach toward trauma healing. Through our Healing of the Wounded Heart Workshops we are witnessing war veterans go through transformations in reconnecting with their true self (spirituality) and reclaiming inner compassion, Love and Peace. I express my gratefulness to you General Chiarelli for questioning our state of mental health affair and advocacy. I have great faith in our human capacity to heal, and the availability of complimentary heart centered modalities out-side current mainstream treatment boxes that assist the healing process. The system needs to look at these modalities seriously, incorporate or fund them, and make them readily accessible.”
Four star general Peter Chiarelli should be given a fifth star for finally publically acknowledging that there are more effective ways of dealing with our emotionally wounded veterans than just throwing a bagful of drugs at them ~ and hopefully shift veteran’s treatment focus from just symptom management and coping toward the real impact of trauma experiences on the human heart - the detachment or quite often further disconnection from one's inner spirituality, well being and above all love.
Allen L Rolandhttp://allenlrolandsweblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/armys-top-brass-acknowledge-need-for.html
Freelance Alternative Press Online columnist and psychotherapist Allen L Roland is available for comments, interviews, speaking engagements and private consultations ( email@example.com )
Allen L Roland is a practicing psychotherapist, author and lecturer who also shares a daily political and social commentary on his weblog and website allenroland.com He also guest hosts a monthly national radio show TRUTHTALK on www.conscioustalk.net