United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Battle Creek VA Medical Center

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD

WHAT IS PTSD?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health 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. Most survivors of trauma return to normal given a little time. However, some people will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time. These individuals may develop PTSD. People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares, intrusive thoughts and flashbacks. They may have difficulty sleeping, experience increased anger and irritability, have an inability to relax, experience high anxiety and/or panic attacks, and have startle response. They may feel detached or estranged and avoid reminders of their traumatic experiences. PTSD is marked by clear biological changes as well as additional psychological symptoms. Many people with PTSD experience guilt, depression, physical/health problems, concentration and memory problems and substance abuse. These symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to be associated with impairment in the person's ability to function in social or family life; this can include occupational, interpersonal, emotional, and spiritual difficulties.

PTSD is not a new disorder. There are descriptions of similar symptoms that go back to ancient times, and there is clear documentation in the medical literature starting with the Civil War, when a PTSD-like disorder, “soldier’s heart”, was discussed. Although the disorder has had different names over the years (shell shock, combat fatigue), the basic description of difficulties was similar.

PTSD has been observed in all veteran populations that have been studied, including World War II, Korean conflict, and Persian Gulf populations, and in United Nations peacekeeping forces deployed to other war zones around the world. There are similar findings of PTSD in military veterans in other countries.

 

OVERVIEW OF PROGRAMMING

 

The Specialized PTSD Programs at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center are designed to treat combat Veterans who suffer from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of war experiences. The philosophy of the program is represented by the Wheel of Life which represents a harmonious vs. malfunctional lifestyle. Combat related PTSD affects many areas of the Veteran’s life and therefore each area is addressed within the context of the program. Treatment modules address neglected areas of daily life through skill-training modules in the treatment program.  Problematic areas such as guilt, intrusions, avoidance, anger, and substance abuse are addressed through classes and through group therapy.  Further, the Three Way Mirror is used to address the person from a life-span perspective and is used to correct distorted perceptions and to gain perspective on conflicts and events of trauma.

 

The PTSD programs at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center includes residential and outpatient treatment.

 

 

Residential PTSD treatment

 

The residential PTSD program offers an intensive treatment approach in which combat Veterans with PTSD attend treatment activities on a daily basis while residing on Ward 14-2.  A variety of symptoms patterns may be apparent in Veterans who are showing or have shown war stress reactions.  Some Veterans continue to show a delayed stress reaction which includes disruptive anxiety, guilt, anger, and intrusive memories related to combat.  In varying degrees, symptoms experienced by the individual may have become associated with long-term disrupting effects in major areas of life functioning including social, psychological, vocational, and family adjustment.  Treatment is aimed at helping Veterans cope with problems of war stress, learn more adaptive ways to cope with current problems, and learn to feel and think better about themselves.  This program is designed to address the emotional, social, occupational, and family consequences of PTSD and to help Veterans develop effective coping skills.  All people accepted into this program are combat Veterans.  They are expected to attend treatment activities throughout the week.  Evening activities are also available.  The program has three treatment tracks of varying lengths and emphases for Veterans with combat-related adjustment problems.

 

Phase I      Length of stay:  variable

Treatment focus:  Evaluation of combat veterans who have been referred to the unit for the first time. This would include assessment by a multidisciplinary team, participation in group therapy, individual therapy, and skill building classes (stress

management, healthy lifestyles, substance awareness, and the like). Also, for Veterans who have previously been treated on the PTSD unit, we provide crisis intervention, stabilization, and brief treatment.

 

D-Track (Dual Diagnosis) Length of Stay: up to 22 days

Treatment focus:  Focus on co-occurring PTSD and substance abuse through

collaboration between the residential PTSD unit and substance abuse unit.

 

CPT Track     Length of stay: about four weeks

Treatment focus:  Exploration of traumatic combat events within a holistic

model of recovery utilizing cognitive processing therapy and coping skills group. Veterans in the CPT track participate in intensive group therapy that emphasizes

reviewing combat traumas while examining the thoughts and feelings around those traumas. In addition, Veterans participate in therapeutic outings as well as various skill building classes. 

 

Goals of the Program

  1. To help the Veteran with assessment and evaluation of identifiable problems areas.
  2. To help relieve acute psychological distress.
  3. To help facilitate self-understanding and mutual support.
  4. To reduce self-defeating behavior patterns and develop more effective ways of thinking and behaving.
  5. To develop a balanced lifestyle (i.e. social, family, recreational, vocational aspects).
  6. To help restore the Veteran to a maximum level of functioning.
  7. To return the Veteran to the community and social support system, including appropriate outpatient follow-up and aftercare.

 

Outpatient PTSD treatment

 

The Specialized Outpatient PTSD Program at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center is designed to provide outreach and treatment to Veterans who suffer from the symptoms of PTSD related to military service.  Veterans from any era who have PTSD symptoms may be referred and will be provided evaluation and treatment as appropriate.  The clinic will help identify Veterans having PTSD symptoms and will help them cope more effectively with the emotional, social, occupational, physical, spiritual, and familial effects of post-traumatic stress. 

 

If a Veteran is found to need and be appropriate for PTSD services, he/she will be assigned to one or more of the available treatment modalities provided by clinic staff.  These modalities include individual psychotherapy, medication management and education, family therapy, and group therapy. In addition, Veterans may be referred for participation in one or more of the skill-building modules offered on the Specialized PTSD Unit (Ward 14-2).

 

In addition to treatment services as described above, Clinic staff provide consultative services.  Our staff develops and maintains relationships with Medical Center staff, contract counselors, community mental health staff, and other community agencies for case finding and referral. Staff has been involved in public education regarding problems of war stress.

 

During the course of the week, the outpatient PTSD clinic offers many groups including: trauma recovery group (one for Vietnam veterans and one for younger veterans), Iraq/Afghanistan veterans therapy group, PTSD follow-up group, PTSD support group, Couples group, female combat veterans support group, PTSD recovery group.

 

Goals of the Program

  1. To help the Veteran with assessment and evaluation of identifiable problems areas.
  2. To help relieve acute psychological distress.
  3. To help facilitate self-understanding and mutual support.
  4. To reduce self-defeating behavior patterns and develop more effective ways of thinking and behaving.
  5. To develop a balanced lifestyle (i.e. social, family, recreational, vocational aspects).
  6. To help restore the Veteran to a maximum level of functioning.
  7. To help the Veteran to manage dealing with life’s everyday problems by living in the present while planning for the future.
  8. To help and maintain the development of a sustained practice of stress management as a way of controlling anxiety and anger.

 

PTSD Free Online Videos and Handouts are available on the following Web sites:

 

http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/index.jsp

 

http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/publications/publications/index.html

 

 

To schedule an appointment for evaluation or for more information, please have your health care provider call the PTSD clinic at: 269-966-5600, extension 31173.