One of the things we hear most often from service members and veterans is that they do not want to have to talk about what they experienced during their tours of duty.
Not only do they want to avoid talking about their experiences, they are not wanting to relive them, or reactivate memories that they have tried to keep at bay. When information about our day that is being consolidated (or filed away) in the brain's memory network is too horrific, confusing, or distressing, our REM sleep gets interrupted with nightmares about the images, thoughts, emotions, and body sensations associated with the distressing event.
As a result, they become splintered off in the memory network. These splintered off pieces of the distressing memory can become activated, out of the blue, bringing about flashbacks that can trigger us into a "fight, flight, or fright" response with an intensity that usually doesn't match what is going on in the present moment. These responses can be very unnerving to both the person experiencing them and to those closest to them who don't know how to help them.
One of the best things about the treatment approaches we use at Journey PTSD Centers is that sharing details of the events that have resulted in PTSD and/or Combat Stress symptoms is not necessary to reprocess and desensitize the emotional charge attached to the memory.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) simulates what is supposed to naturally happen in the brain when we go to sleep, while the client is fully awake in the EMDR therapist's office or at a equine facility with horses, during Equine-focused EMDR.
The contents of the traumatic or distressing memory are then adaptively integrated within the memory network. The memory, while it still may be distressing to think about, it no longer grips one emotionally, because the emotional charge is no longer active.
Equine-focused therapy (another therapy approach we utilize) includes horses in the work we do with veterans and service members. Horses, as natural prey animals, are extremely attuned to the predators in their midst and, thus, are able to help humans work through anxiety, hyper-vigilance, and becoming integrated as a herd mate.
As herd bound animals, a horse's survival depends on being able to appropriately read their environment and on being able to trust their herd mates to have their back. These are very similar tasks for those who are on active deployment, all off which work really well for survival purposes when one is dodging bullets and dealing with IEDs.
Once the warrior returns home to their family and friends, they often are still carrying the effects of war on them and are thus, unable to shift to an approach that allows them to effectively re-integrate into a relationship-oriented, non-war-mindset.
With EMDR and Equine-focused therapy, the warrior is able to not only experience reduction, relief, and resolution of symptoms, they are able to build resilience to future stressors; especially in the case of those who are returning to another tour of duty.
Call today if you, or someone you love, is experiencing Combat Stress or PTSD.
Dr. Miller can help get you back to living your life and not your trauma.
© 2007-2018 Renee Miller, PsyD, LMFT, Inc 18021 Sky Park Circle Ste E2 Irvine, Ca 92614