Center for Mind-Body Medicine teaches stress-management skills to help reduce PTSD

I greatly admire Lily Casura, who started writing the website Healing Combat Trauma five years ago. We came across each other this past year as I became more concerned about what happens to Canada’s returning vets after they have served in Afghanistan. Lily believes in and promotes integrative medicine, the so-called “best of East and West,” as the greatest hope for sufferers of PTSD, something which Canadian soldiers and vets now battle in alarming numbers.

In Canada, Veterans Affairs and the general medical community have not dedicated sufficient time and resources to study what happens to those under repeated battle conditions. Their short-sightedness strikes a blow against the mental health of our troops as they have endured recurring long deployments in Afghanistan over the past nine years, as well as peacekeeping missions in conflicts like Bosnia, Kosovo or Rwanda, where they witnessed genocide and experienced defensive combat.

American psychiatrist Dr. Jim Gordon, who pioneered the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C., and who has, with the Center, worked in war-torn areas all over the world, has a “Healing the Troops” track that Casura herself has taken and recommends. She writes in a posting from June, 2008:

Mind Body Medicine: Healing the Wounds of War

June 15, 2008 — When I started this blog over two years ago now, I was hoping that somehow James S. Gordon, M.D., and the Center for Mind-Body Medicine which he founded in Washington, DC, would somehow get involved in the prospect of bringing mind-body medicine to the troops.  Gordon is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, with impeccable credentials, who has a lifetime interest in expanding patient care into new areas, particularly Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), and mind-body medicine in particular.  (Mind-body medicine is a shorthand way of re-combining the two “halves” of medicine perhaps unjustly sundered in an arbitrary Cartesian mind-body split.  Much of Eastern thought, rather than Western, never saw them divided at all.)  In a previous lifetime, where I interviewed luminaries in the natural medicine field, Gordon was a favorite interviewee – smart, genial and with a very forward-thinking grasp of what mind-body medicine could accomplish.  Gordon, who was featured in the Bill Moyers series on PBS, Healing and the Mind, was a frequent lecturer at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and for years had served as the head of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine.  He is also a Clinical Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at Georgetown University Medical School.
But more to our purposes, when war broke out in Kosovo, he and the Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM) took their methods into the region, creating a program called “Healing the Wounds of War,” to help war-torn schoolchildren and their caregivers manage the trauma they had undergone, through a sustained, devastating conflict.  What I was hoping — and I kept checking the CMBM website periodically to find out — was that they would leapfrog off their successes with PTSD in Bosnia and Kosovo, and Israel and the Middle East, and develop something geared to PTSD in service members, and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  For years, nothing was obvious (yet), but here’s some of their success with children in Kosovo.  Notice what symptoms the program helped with, how impressive the statistics are, and make the conceptual leap to how this might help with combat veterans and/or their families:

The clinical efficacy of the CMBM program with traumatized children has been repeatedly demonstrated. In a pilot study in which high school teachers in the Suhareka region of Kosovo used the CMBM model, levels of post traumatic stress disorder in high school students were reduced from an average of 88% to 38% in only six weeks (read the research, published in Journal of Traumatic Stress, April 2004, linked here). Participants have also reported the following documented effects of CMBM trainings, including: the alleviation of their own stress and trauma; decreases in anxiety and depression; increased optimism; decreased anger; and increased capacity to help others.

You can read more about the program’s specific successes, here.  Or, you can read a general overview of the program and what’s involved, here.  You can also read Dr. Gordon’s bio, here.

 LILY CASURA, December 29, 2010

HEALING COMBAT TRAUMA Therapeutic resources for veterans with combat-based Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”), focused on integrative medicine and hope.


About Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

Bonnie's Blog Posts invite our readers and free spirits everywhere to share life's adventures with us. I talk about writing my novels, reading books, chatting with other writers and John's and my journeys around the world. We welcome your anecdotes to our experiences and discussions.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan vets, Canadian Armed Forces, Homecoming Vets, post traumatic stress disorder, veterans' affairs, veterans' assistance programs and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Center for Mind-Body Medicine teaches stress-management skills to help reduce PTSD

  1. David Desjardins CD says:

    Another great article Bonnie. Para 2 hits the nail on the head. Another thing that the general public don’t hear about is the psychiatric support (or lack there of), that the veteran gets once they have been medically released from the CF, and, the red tape and hoops that they have to jump through to get continuing support from an outside mental health professional. Personally I’ve all but given up on the psychiatric profession, who although, as previously stated by numerous people, are very well trained, and, educated, do not, nor will they ever, fully understand the “personal” effects of PTSD. As wonderful and intriguing it is to hear about chemical imbalances, frontal lobes, cerebral cortex’s and the like, science will never understand emotional trauma. Only someone who has suffered it themselves will be able to truly understand.

  2. Bonnie Toews says:

    Thanks, David. The lack of meaningful help is why I am searching out self-healing methods for PTSD such as Heal My PTSD, Healing Combat Trauma and Healing Our Heroes, which are listed down the blogroll to the side. To me, Lily Casura of Healing Combat Trauma has acquired the most valuable network of information there is during her five years of research so follow her numerous posts on Facebook. I’m thinking of setting up a forum here for vets and families where we can also explore self-healing. Yoga breathing and relaxing exercises have helped many. Those who are pulling ahead can share what is helping them. Having people listen with genuine interest and understanding is a big part of moving forward. Maybe we’ll be the AA of PTSD. Need our own mantra for that, right?

    It sounds scary and risky without professional guidance, but I also instinctively believe it is possible to rewire the brain by changing thought patterns and mental images. Lily warns it has to be approached very carefully, but in this forum we would never try to reconstruct images that cause pain and panic — instead we would seek serene scenes and experiences to replace the ones that trigger impromptu attacks. What’s that saying? When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Well, that’s what our Canadian vets are — tough and honest and resourceful.

  3. Hali says:

    reetings. I follow your site to wish you continued success.

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