As part of PTSD Awareness Month the Clinic Director at our Dallas location, Dr. Amy Williams, is taking a look at how the diagnosis of PTSD has evolved as well as the treatment options. This is part two in a two part series. Part one ran last week.
During my internship, I remember being taught to explain PTSD to a Vietnam veteran as a condition to be managed (not cured). That was in the 1990s. Since that time, much has changed in the widespread development and availability of effective treatments for PTSD. There is also growing recognition of the need to treat the couple or family when one member is suffering from PTSD.
Currently, proven treatments for PTSD fall into two categories: psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy includes talk therapies that have been researched and shown effective in multiple studies. They are relatively short term and are the gold standard for treatment. Several medications have been shown safe and effective. One caveat: the research shows, when using medication only, most people relapse when medication is discontinued. For more information on specific types of treatments/medication, visit www.ptsd.va.gov.
Several therapies now focus on the couple or family as well. While some of the couples/family interventions attempt to treat the PTSD directly, others focus on educating family members on the invisible wound of PTSD and on strengthening the family in moving forward. Helping caregivers of those with PTSD is increasingly recognized as important.
It seems every day one can find a news story about new approaches to PTSD treatment. Oftentimes, experimental approaches are accompanied by powerful testimonials. Neuroscience is offering additional advances and there is promise to help with early detection and intervention. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) such as acupuncture, mindfulness and yoga or equine therapy are often touted as helpful and show some promising results. The field is advancing rapidly and most professionals remain open and hopeful regarding new approaches while also cautious until rigorous study is conducted.
Many people suffering from PTSD do not engage in therapy due to a variety of reasons. Beliefs about seeking help and stigma leftover from military service can be barriers. Also, wanting to avoid talking or thinking about the trauma is one of the symptoms of PTSD. Treatment works best with the support of a trained professional (and support of the family!).
The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinics in the Cohen Veterans Network are all staffed with clinicians conducting the gold standard treatments for PTSD listed above and also providing support to family/caregivers. Professionals now know that PTSD is treatable and not just something to manage. No one can erase a memory or a painful experience but getting the right treatment can result in a better life for the person and family impacted by PTSD.
By Amy M. Williams, Ph.D.
Clinic Director, Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Metrocare