Better Treatment Options for Military Service Members and Veterans

Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2015 showed that the most commonly used treatments for PTSD—cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and prolonged exposure therapy (PE) may not be as effective as those in the medical community had hoped.

Meanwhile, the number of American military veterans who struggle with PTSD and related co-occurring disorders (e.g. addiction, depression, and anxiety) continues to be a serious national health concern. Some reports show that more than 200,000 Vietnam War veterans still have PTSD and that around 13 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans show signs of the disorder.

While those who receive CPT or PE therapy for PTSD do often show some improvement in their symptoms, most still meet the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis after the treatment period has ended. The reason may lie in the fact that these treatments focus largely on “thinking” part of the brain, and do not treat the underlying symptoms of trauma that are locked into the patient’s limbic system and physiological responses. As Meadows Senior Fellow Bessel van der Kolk says in his seminal work, “The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma:”

“Psychologists usually try to help people use insight and understanding to manage their behavior. However, neuroscience research shows that very few psychological problems are the result of defects in understanding; most originate in pressures from deeper regions in the brain that drive our perception and attention. When the alarm bell of the emotional brain keeps signaling that you are in danger, no amount of insight will silence it.”

Integrating Neurofeedback and Traditional Talk Therapies at The Meadows

Dr. van der Kolk’s ongoing research shows that neurofeedback and biofeedback hold the keys to unlocking the parts of the brain where our automatic and unconscious trauma responses are stored. When a person has experienced a lot of prolonged exposure to stress and trauma, as those who have experience in combat often have, their limbic systems become over stimulated and get locked in a perpetual fight, flight, or freeze mode. When the limbic system reaches a critical mass of stress, the prefrontal lobe, where all of our rational thinking and decision-making takes place, gets shut off.

Treatments like CPT and PE can be helpful in treating PTSD when the person’s brain and body are not being held hostage by the limbic system’s automatic survival responses. If you can calm down those parts of the brain that are sending the “red alert” messages to the rest of the body, you can help to re-awaken the prefrontal lobe, making therapies that require the use of thought, reasoning, and insight much more effective.

That’s where neurofeedback and biofeedback come in. At The Meadows’ Brain Center, techniques like electroencephalography (EEG), which teaches self-regulation of brain function; cranio-electro stimulation (CES), which helps improve cognitive functioning and mood; heart-rate variability (HRV), which helps patients regulate breathing patterns; hemoencephalography (HEG) biofeedback, which helps to stimulate underactive frontal lobes in the brain are more than just ancillary services. They are part of an integrated and all-inclusive treatment model.

Every patient at The Meadows spends, at minimum, one hour per week in The Brain Center. Many patients spend time in The Brain Center every day, depending on their diagnosis and the individualized treatment program laid out for them by a team of experts in neuroscience, psychiatry, and trauma treatment. Our primary goal in The Brain Center is to help patients developed a better regulated limbic system and central nervous system, so that when they are better able to retain and apply what they’re learning from traditional talk therapies. By integrating several different approaches to treatment we can often substantially reduce the time it takes a patient to heal.

Our hope is that by the time a patient leaves one of The Meadows treatment programs, we’ve helped them to permanently change their actual brain chemistry for the better, leading to much better outcomes and longer lasting recovery.

TRICARE Network Provider

As far as we know, no other treatment center in the country is currently integrating cutting-edge neurobehavioral treatment modalities with tried-and-true individual and group psychotherapies. That means that no other treatment center is offering treatment that truly, simultaneously, addresses the needs of the brain, mind, and body in treating PTSD and co-occurring disorders.

We are tremendously proud of our work with service members, veterans, and their families, and would be happy to help determine eligibility and benefits that can be utilized at The Meadows. We are privileged to be a TRICARE Preferred Provider of behavioral health and substance abuse inpatient services to active duty military members. We are also in-network with The TRICARE West region for veterans, families, and dependents.

For more information about The Meadows’ services and programs, call 800-244-4949. Our Intake Coordinators will be happy to assist you and answer your questions. All calls are kept completely confidential.

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