Several Alternative Treatments Show Promises for PTSD Patients
As counselors and professionals in the addiction treatment industry, we will surely come across individuals with cooccurring disorders. A very common mineral health concern is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. Individuals with PTSD may show a variety of symptoms related to their trauma, including depression, hyper-alertness, substance abuse and difficulty sleeping. These patients may require a variety of therapies to help them deal with the emotional consequences of past events. Alternative treatments are now being used to help reduce the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome
Post-traumatic stress syndrome, or PTSD, is a psychological condition in which an individual continues to experience the trauma of an event long after the incident has occurred. The individual may have flashbacks of the traumatic event, feel isolated and depressed, may have nightmares and may abuse alcohol or drugs to dull their emotions. A traumatic event may be time in combat, a violent crime, physical or sexual abuse or a natural disaster that threatened life and safety1.
The experience of hyper-awareness continues, even after the incident is long past, and the resulting symptoms can prevent the individual from moving on with their careers or personal relationships. Standard treatment for PTSD includes a variety of antidepressant, anti-anxiety or anti-convulsive medications. However, additional treatment may also be needed to provide effective relief from symptoms or when pharmaceutical treatments are not well-tolerated.
Meditation for PTSD
Meditation is a mental exercise that uses deep relaxation to relieve the mind of disturbing thoughts and provide a greater sense of peace. It can best be described as a practice, that is, a mental exercise that increases in power the more it is done. In many studies, meditation has been found to relieve stress and reduce the severity of symptoms from traumatic experiences. It can be used as a method of treatment for PTSD to reduce anxiety, relieve disturbing memories and improve overall quality of life.
Art Therapy for PTSD Patients
The use of art to explore the inner world is increasing in popularity because it offers a non-verbal method of putting experiences into a conventional frame of context. Many times, an individual who has experienced a traumatic incident doesn’t have the language necessary to express the experience and may not be able to put the resulting feelings into a reasonable historical context in their lives 2.
Other methods can provide a new framework for understanding what they have been through and how it has affected them. Art can create a “story” of the event that allows the individual to explore it from different viewpoints, in a safe, non-threatening manner. Art can also help to change feelings about the incident by allowing them alternate ways of dealing with it in the moment it occurred. This use of imagination to examine reality offers many opportunities to heal old wounds and create new narratives.
Spiritual Practice for PTSD
Individuals with a religious background often turn to their faith when difficult circumstances occur. Individuals dealing with substance abuse problems as a result of PTSD often find that a return to spiritual practice allows them to find the strength to deal with the cravings of addiction, as well as to confront the memories and emotions of their trauma.
In some cases, these alternative methods are used in addition to medication. They can be helpful in reducing the sense of generalized anxiety of PTSD and can provide improved relaxation with a greater sense of emotional control. All addiction counselors should stay abreast of complementary treatments for PTSD and other disorders that can benefit their clients.